"We Just Have To Continue Working": Farmworker Self-care and Heat-related Illness

  • Michael D. Courville California Institute for Rural Studies
  • Gail Wadsworth California Institute for Rural Studies
  • Marc Schenker University of California, Davis
Keywords: California Agriculture, Safety Training, Heat Illness, Heat-Related Illness, Farmworker, Qualitative Analysis, Wage Labor, Worker Control

Abstract

Heat-related illness (also called heat illness) is a recurring and avoidable condition that results in multiple deaths in California farm fields every year. We conducted five focus groups as part of the California Heat Illness Prevention Study (CHIPS) in Fresno, California, during the summer of 2013. We used qualitative coding methods to analyze focus group transcript data with consideration of workers' behaviors and beliefs, workplace safety training experiences, employer-employee relations, and workplace conditions and organization. Discrete and complex factors related to worker self-care were identified, and suggest that heat illness cannot be viewed as simply a biomedical or behavioral issue, and that preventive health interventions in agriculture also need to take into account power and control structures existing in the industry. Findings indicate that prevention plans should be guided by strategies that integrate worker control with work-site organization and employer relations, as opposed to strategies that focus exclusively on traditional modes of training to advance prevention.

Author Biographies

Michael D. Courville, California Institute for Rural Studies
California Institute for Rural Studies; P.O. Box 1047; Davis, California 95617-1047 USA; +1-530-756-6555 x18.
Gail Wadsworth, California Institute for Rural Studies
California Institute for Rural Studies; P.O. Box 1047; Davis, California 95617-1047 USA; +1-530-756-6555 x17.
Marc Schenker, University of California, Davis
Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California–Davis School of Medicine, Davis, California 95616 USA.
Published
2016-10-06
Section
Labor in the Food System Call Papers