Online Program

Feasibility of physiologic biomontoring of occupational heat-related illness in central Florida farmworkers

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Valerie Mac, RN, PhD, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Jennifer Runkle, PhD, School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Antonio Tovar, PhD, Florida Prevention Research Center, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
Marie Semple, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Eugenia Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida, Apopka, FL
Linda A. McCauley, RN, PhD, FAAN, FAAOHN, School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Background: Heat-related illness (HRI) is a serious occupational health concern. Certain occupational groups are at an increased risk for HRI, including agricultural workers. Fernery workers are a subpopulation of agricultural workers facing intense heat and humidity at the workplace. Objectives: This pilot study will determine the feasibility of characterizing environmental and personal factors associated with heat-related illness in fernery workers. Methods: In partnership with the Farmworker Association of Florida, a consecutive convenience sample of 10 men and 10 women from a population of fernery workers working in Central Florida during the month of July. Physiologic measurements included body composition, simultaneous heart rate (HR) and intestinal core body temperature (CT), work intensity, hydration and self-reported HRI symptoms over a 3-day study period. To assess acceptability, farmworker participants also completed an exit survey. Environmental measurements of wet-bulb globe temperature (WBGT) were captured using real-time local weather network data. Results: Recruitment rates were 50% of all potential participants approached, primarily due to work availability, eligibility and transportation barriers with attrition of <10%. Baseline physiologic measurements were successfully obtained from participants. Participant exit surveys indicated high acceptability of study methods, equipment and willingness to recommend participation in similar studies to other workers. WBGTs reached a level of 73°F, a known hazardous temperature for vulnerable groups. Conclusions: This pilot provides support that physiologic monitoring in agricultural populations is not only feasible, but has the potential to advance occupational heat exposure assessment in an unprecedented way. Knowledge gained will inform the design of a larger study.

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety
Public health or related nursing

Learning Objectives:
Describe factors related to feasibility of physiologic biomonitoring for assessing heat-related illness (HRI) in agricultural workers.

Keyword(s): Climate Change, Occupational Exposure

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am currently pursuing doctoral study in Nursing with a focus in occupational health and vulnerable populations under Dr. Linda McCauley, PhD. In addition to my experience in community and public health, I have been working with agricultural workers from the Farmworker Association of Florida to study occupational hazards for the past 2 years. Additionally, I am currently the PI of a pilot grant aimed at studying occupational heat hazards in Florida farmworkers.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.