A new study shows that farmers in California have a higher chance of sustaining injuries due to heat exposure. Because of the heat and humidity in the state, farmers and agricultural workers are exposed to temperatures that can reach 100 degrees and beyond, increasing the risk of workplace injuries and illnesses. In fact, farmers die while working in the heat every year, but these deaths are rarely classified as heat-related.

Since the state of California passed the Heat Illness Prevention act in 2005, there have been fewer heat-related deaths according to Cal/OSHA. However, the United Farm Workers union claims that the number of heat-related fatalities is much higher. Due to the climate in California, workers face a significantly higher risk of heat exhaustion, which can cause headaches, nausea and vomiting. 

The discrepancy in the numbers of heat-related deaths makes it difficult to get an accurate picture of the plight of farmers and other agricultural workers in the state. Employers are required to have certain safety measures in place, which includes providing shade, break times and water. Despite industry regulations, some workers feel pressure to work through their rightful break times, sometimes suffering serious physical repercussions. 

When a worker becomes ill due to heat-exposure, he or she has the right to medical treatment for any workplace injuries. If a worker dies due to a heat-related illness, beneficiaries and family members left behind have a claim to certain workers’ compensation benefits. After a work accident or fatality, it is best to seek the opinion of a lawyer in order to have a clear understanding of available legal options.

Source: desertsun.com, “Death in The Fields“, Mauricio Pena, Nov. 19, 2015