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

Michael D. Courville, Gail Wadsworth, Marc Schenker


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.


California Agriculture; Safety Training; Heat Illness; Heat-Related Illness; Farmworker; Qualitative Analysis; Wage Labor; Worker Control

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5304/jafscd.2016.062.014


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