Online Program

Evaluation of heat stress in migrant farmworkers

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 8:30 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.

Ken Silver, SM, DSc, Department of Environmental Health, College of Public Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
Steve McQueen, MSEH, Department of Environmental Health, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
Michael Bradfield, MPH, Quillen College of Medicine, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
Joseph Florence, MD, Family Medicine, ETSU, Johnson City, TN
Steve Manock, MD, Migrant Health Program, Rural Medical Services, Parrottsville, TN
Karin Hoffman, Migrant/Hispanic Outreach, Rural Medical Services, Inc., Parrottsville, TN
Alexis Andino, Migrant Health Program, Rural Medical Services, Parrottsville, TN
Sharon Loury, PhD RN, College of Nursing, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN
BACKGROUND. The rate of heat-related fatalities in crop production workers is almost 20 times that of other industries. University researchers, in partnership with clinicians and outreach workers at a migrant health center, sought a better understanding of the risks to migrant and seasonal tomato workers during the summer months.

METHODS. Heat stress was investigated in tomato workers in July 2012 using measurements of body temperature, heart rates, body weight loss, evaluation of the thermal environment, and survey data.

RESULTS. Using occupational safety criteria, these workers were found to work under conditions that should require protective measures to prevent heat strain. Increases in body temperature, heart rate, and physiological strain correlated with heat exposure. One-third of workers had percent losses in body weight that indicated dehydration. However, working under hot conditions appeared to elicit a low magnitude of heat strain in well-acclimated workers who self-pace. Survey data showed that less than 30% have had any heat-related safety training.

DISCUSSION. Findings of this study, one of the first with physiological measurements of U.S. crop workers, indicate the need for worker and employer safety training regarding acclimation, hydration and self-pacing.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Analyze factors related to the environment, work organization, regulations, and behavior that influence tomato crop workers' risk of heat stress.

Keyword(s): Agricultural Work Safety, Occupational Exposure

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Supervised MSEH student in design, execution and analysis of this thesis research on heat stress. Several years' experience in campus-community partnership on tomato workers' job hazards.
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.