Heat Illness

Dry landscape in California with sun rays beating down

Agricultural workers are greatly susceptible to heat-related illnesses and fatalities due to their work outside. Reducing the risk of heat illness (HRI) has been a major research theme of WCAHS for the past decade. Together with policymakers, advocates, farmworker unions, and workers, WCAHS contributed to a multilevel transformation of California's heat illness prevention requirements (California Code of Regulations, Title 8 § 3395).

Research has focused on understanding the physiological responses to increased environmental heat and physical exertion, and the barriers and incentives that affect farmworkers' motivation to take elective rest breaks, seek shade, modify clothing, and drink water in order to prevent HRI. In the UC Davis California Heat Illness Study (CHIPS), farmworkers were found to make self-care decisions on factors such as beliefs about water consumption/temperature, employer relations, and productivity losses/gains. Based on these findings, WCAHS has produced a short series of HRI prevention videos in Spanish that address symptoms, management, and the importance of preventing HRI. In addition, WCAHS conducts workshops to assist farm managers, owners, and/or staff in charge of workplace safety to develop effective HRI programs. Current heat illness research involves understanding the economic impact of HRI for agricultural employers and developing a HRI preventative mobile phone application for farm supervisors.