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Claim alleges unsafe conditions for Nassau golf course, parks workers

Advocacy groups representing Latino workers employed on a seasonal basis file claim with state asking for an investigation into on-the-job safety standards.

Employees at Nassau County golf courses and parks filed a complaint Wednesday with the New York State Department of Labor alleging they face a range of risks in the workplace — from exposure to toxic chemicals and excess heat to getting hit by flying golf balls.  

The 93-page complaint also alleges the workers lack the proper training to operate heavy equipment and asks the state labor department's Division of Safety and Health to investigate the conditions.  The complaint was filed by Trabajadores Por Igualdad, a group representing Latino workers employed by Nassau County on a seasonal basis, as well as advocacy groups, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Make The Road New York.

The employees work in close proximity to where toxic chemicals are sprayed, such as herbicides, insecticides, pesticides and fungicides, according to the complaint, which also alleges the workers lack adequate health and safety training and the protective equipment to shield them from toxic chemicals. Parks workers have been hospitalized, according to the complaint, and suffered skin infections as well as respiratory ailments.

Nassau spokesman Michael Martino declined to comment on behalf of the county because the filing is in the category of pending complaints or litigation.

The claim also alleges that workers have experienced "multiple near miss encounters with high-speed golf balls striking their bodies." 

Balls hit by golfers have struck employees as they walked the greens or operated machinery, causing the workers to fall off, according to the complaint. County employees have also been hospitalized for golf ball-related injuries, the complaint alleges, and one worker was "permanently disabled" after a ball struck him on the head.

The county failed to provide proper training, whether it be for cutting trees or dealing with heat stress, the complaint alleges

Nathalia Varela, a legal fellow with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said she hopes the complaint shines a light on "the harsh conditions that the seasonal workers have to work under."

"I hope it shows the county the need that they provide," she said of the nearly two dozen workers represented. "There's no protection provided to these workers while golf is in play," she said. "These workers are skilled at their jobs, the parks grounds bring in a lot for the county, and these are workers that are subjecting themselves to dangerous conditions, and they don't even have health benefits."

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