Heat-Related Illness

Agricultural Worker Drinks Water in the Field

What is heat illness?

Heat illness occurs when the body's temperature rises rapidly due to environmental exposure to heat. Heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke present a spectrum of symptoms ranging from headaches, dizziness, cramps, fainting, rapid heartbeat, and disorientation to more serious outcomes including shock and death.

How does heat illness affect agricultural workers?

Agricultural workers are at increased susceptibility to heat-related illnesses and fatalities due to their work outside. Despite regulations from the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) and a campaign to encourage drinking more water and taking more rests in the shade, avoidable deaths and heat-related illnesses still occur among California farmworkers.

How is WCAHS addressing these issues?

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 heat-related illness.

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