It’s hot – and it’s getting hotter. Climate change is increasing the number of extreme-heat days across the US. This increase in heat is dangerous for outdoor workers, from agricultural workers, to roofers and construction workers, to airport runway workers. It’s also concerning for certain indoor workers who do not have a climate-controlled environment, like some workers in restaurants, packing houses, and warehouses.
Agricultural workers are particularly vulnerable to overexertion in the heat. Piecework pay (rather than hourly wages) discourages the utilization of break times during which they could rehydrate and rest in the shade. Agricultural workers on large farms may find shade and water break locations far from their working location. Some who apply pesticides may need to wear personal protective equipment which increases the risk of heat stress. Concurrent exposures to wildfire smoke, now a regular occurrence in summers and falls across the West, or to pesticides, may exacerbate underlying health conditions that are already triggered by heat stress, like asthma. Further, many may leave a hot workplace at the end of the day to return to substandard farm housing without climate controls and with insufficient ventilation, reducing their bodies’ ability to recover during the night.
There are currently no federal heat regulations, meaning workers are not legally protected from working in dangerously hot conditions or ensured basic safety precautions are followed. Three states have standards: California, Washington, and Minnesota. California’s standard requires the provision of rest, shade, and water – the three critical aspects to prevent heat-related illnesses and to alleviate mild heat-related illnesses. Around the country, however, many workers are unaware of the health risks of extreme heat, nor the increased risks of heat-related illness as a result of climate change.
Recommended Heat-related Resources
Heat-Related Illness Clinician’s Guide - June 2021
This guide was developed by MCN and Farmworker Justice and provides information to clinicians on the prevention and treatment of heat-related illness. Since workers may not be familiar with all of the symptoms of heat stress, it is important that clinicians discuss heat illness symptoms and prevention with agricultural workers and others who are at risk.
This comprehensive training curriculum is available in Spanish or English and is designed as a practical resource to train farmworker about heat related illness including signs and symptoms, how to prevent it, and what to do when someone is experiencing heat related illness.
MCN Written Testimony for Heat Stress Regional Information Hearings Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH)
Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) is drafting a much-needed standard requiring employers to protect Maryland workers from heat-related illnesses, starting next year. During an agency hearing, Leslie Rodriguez, JD, Bilingual Program Manager for Environmental and Occupational Health, provided Migrant Clinicians Network’s comments on the new standard.
This page overviews the CA Heat Illness standard and resources in multiple languages.
Calculates the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers.
This 9-minute video features workers from agriculture, construction and landscaping and heat illness prevention and treatment.
This training curriculum from Farmworker Justice reviews basic concepts related to pesticide exposure, field sanitation, heat illness, and worker rights.
A set of resources and tools developed in collaboration with agricultural workers and educators. The toolkit provides a train-the-trainer guide for the identification, prevention, and treatment of heat illness and is available in both English and Spanish.
A bilingual (English/Spanish) brochure created by AFOP detailing best practices for heat stress prevention for farmworkers.
YouTube video with Public Citizen's Dr. Juley Fulcher and AFOP Program Manager Vashti Kelly speaking about Heat Stress in the Fields and the interplay between heat-related illness and COVID-19.
Heat-Related Illness Clinician’s Guide - June 2021
This guide provides information to clinicians on the prevention and treatment of heat-related illness. Since workers may not be familiar with all of the symptoms of heat stress, it is important that clinicians discuss heat illness symptoms and prevention with agricultural workers and others who are at risk.
by R. Gauer and B.K. Meyers
The following are some useful resources designed specifically for workers on how to prevent, recognize and address heat illness in the workplace.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Enfermedades Relacionadas con el Calor (Spanish)
National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health
NIOSH Fast Facts (English)
NIOSH Datos Breves (Spanish)
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Water. Rest. Shade. The Work Can’t Get Done Without Them (Low-Literacy Fact Sheet)(English)
Webinars on Heat-related Illness
It's Hot and It's Dangerous!
A webinar for community health workers to learn about heat-related illness and how to prevent it