By Sylvia Murphy, client service representative at MET, Inc.
“I’m from the deep south, the southern-most part of Texas, where there are hardly any shady spots in our fields to rest in. During the winter season, it’s not uncommon to see temperatures in the 80’s or even 90’s (rare, but it happens). Our crops vary from cotton and grain in the summer to citrus and winter greens in the fall and winter. So how do our workers take breaks in a state that’s hot year-round and where there’s always outside work to do? The answer: they make do with what they have.
What our workers have had to do is come to work at the break of dawn, when the heat is still bearable. If you go by the fields where they are working, you will see them using precautionary gear to keep themselves cool during work. During their breaks they set up makeshift tents so they can rest where the sun won’t hit them directly. Alternatively, some sit in their cars with all the doors open so the occasional breeze may cool their faces. Currently, we are at the start of the onion harvest. The workers start early and try to finish the clipping and bagging of the onion by 2 o’clock the latest, so they are not outside at the peak of the hot temperatures.
When the farmworkers take that needed break “para refrescarse”, they can hydrate themselves with water and, if there is time, get a bite to eat. In this part of Texas, true “descanso” is a luxury that most farmworkers don’t have.”
In coordination with our local partners such as MET, Inc., AFOP Health & Safety delivers Heat Stress trainings to farmworkers just like the ones Sylvia meets in Texas. During those trainings, our trainers emphasize the importance of taking regular, quality breaks so that workers are able to maintain stable core body temperatures, preventing heat stroke and other signs of heat stress. Our trainers also often hand out long-sleeved shirts, which help protect farmworkers from overexposure to the sun. We are collecting those shirts right now, during our National Long-Sleeve Shirt Drive! Check out our website for a drop-off location near you.