Over the last five years the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs has taken the initiative of holding a National Heat Stress Prevention Training Marathon through its National Farmworker Training Program (NFTP). This year is no exception. The purpose of this training marathon is to provide the farmworker community with life-saving tools to prevent suffering from a heat-related illness.
Every year it seems to get warmer and warmer in the summer time. Unfortunately, over 2.5 million U.S. farmworkers are put in danger of heat-related illnesses that could be devasting. Talk Poverty stated that heat has become the deadliest threat to farmworkers.
Working outdoors might sound like a wonderful idea, in theory. However, in practice, it is totally different. Exposure to extreme heat in 100 plus degrees for 8 to 12 hours at a time, 6 days a week, is hazardous. Because of the nature of their work, farmworkers are at a higher risk of suffering from heat stress, heat stroke or heat exhaustion.
Hundreds of farmworkers suffer from heat-related illnesses every year, however, many times it goes unreported for multiple reasons, among them: lack of knowledge, lack of money, fear of retaliation, and more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, between 2011 and 2017 approximately 252 deaths were directly attributable to hot weather conditions in the U.S. This might sound like a small number, but each one of the 252 lives matter and should have been prevented.
A press release by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) stated that it will depend on employer’s vigilance to address workplace hazards in the peak of the summer. This effort is just NOT ENOUGH. Outdoor workers are dying and putting their health at risk to do a job that, in the end, benefits us. We need DOL to create strong regulations to protect outside workers from exposure to extreme heat, and most importantly, enforce these regulations. These regulations should include access to cool drinking water and time to rest in the shade.
As of today, only two states have standards to protect outdoor workers – California and Washington. So, why has DOL not established a strong regulation to prevent health catastrophes due to exposure to extreme heat in outdoor settings? Holding a campaign or having resources available on a website or app is just not enough. DOL needs to take action now!
United Nations News published an article stating that agricultural workers around the world are set to be worst hit by rising temperatures, according to ILO data. In fact, temperatures have been rising throughout the US in the last couple of weeks. Many of us are complaining about the “crazy” heat and yet we work in air-conditioning, while farmworkers have no other option but to work under the hot sun. This is why we need to provide better protection. We urge DOL to take action and protect the farmworkers who feed us.
In the meantime, AFOP Health & Safety Programs provide a wide range of occupational health and safety trainings to the farmworker community. One important topic is Heat Stress Prevention. Using our low-literacy and bilingual curriculum, our trainers offer the agricultural workers and employers the tools they need to protect themselves from a heat-related illness. AFOP’s heat stress prevention curriculum covers the difference between heat stress and heat stroke, the signs and symptoms of heat stress, what to do in case of emergency, and how to prevent a heat-related illness. For AFOP Health & Safety staff it is extremely important to protect and safeguard the lives of all agricultural workers.
No one deserves to die or get ill for doing their job. Federal standards must be created and implemented in each state to safeguard the lives of all outdoor workers.
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