Heat-Related Illness

Agricultural Worker Drinks Water in the Field

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 multi-level transformation of California's heat illness prevention requirements (California Code of Regulations, Title 8 § 3395). Research focuses 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. 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.


Cumulative incidence of acute kidney injury in California’s agricultural workers. Moyce SC, Tancredi DJ, Joseph JG, Mitchell DC, Schenker MB. J Occup Environ Med 2016 Apr;58(4):391-7. PMID: 27058480

Heat-related illness knowledge and practices among California hired farm workers in the MICASA study. Stoecklin-Marois MT, Hennessy-Burt T, Mitchell D, Schenker MB. Ind Health 2013;51(1):47-55. PMID: 23411756

Recruitment, methods and descriptive results of a physiologic assessment of Latino farmworkers: the California Heat Illness Prevention Study (CHIPS). Mitchell DC, Castro JR, Armitage TL, Vega-Arroyo AJ, Moyce SC, Tancredi DJ, Bennett DH, Jones JH, Kjellstrom T, Schenker MB. J Occup Environ Med. In Press.

“We just have to continue working”: Farmworker self-care and heat related illness. Courville MD, Wadsworth G, Schenker MB. J Ag Food Systems and Community Development. 2015;6(2):143-164.