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Conference Name Managing human resource and legal risks of heat stress on CA and AZ farms

Howard Rosenberg

Summary

Excess heat has long been detrimental to people in agriculture, their work performance, and business results. Projects supported by the WCRME have helped agricultural employers in California and Arizona apply principles from exercise physiology and sports medicine to reduce risks of personal harm, performance impairment, workplace injuries, and operational disruptions due to heat stress, and thus to control associated expenses. Interest in and reach of the California project were magnified by recent adoption of a state regulation requiring employers to take specific steps that would prevent heat illness in outdoor workplaces, thus adding to producers┬┤ legal risks.

Because control of heat stress in the production workforce depends on actions of managers and workers alike, the projects were designed to reach both. Direct contacts in structured sessions were nearly all with managers and first-line supervisors. The projects helped equip these very participants and numerous collaborating educators, however, to deliver educational content to production workers. Written materials and presentation slide files developed under these projects have been widely disseminated and adapted to provide practical guidance throughout the agricultural community.

Although the California project initially focused on education for licensed farm labor contractors, it grew to also address other agricultural employers, hired managers, and production workers within and beyond the state. It engaged several collaborating organizations in a large array of educational activities and products that have increased problem awareness, built understanding of risk reduction measures, and led to modification of work conditions as well as behavior.

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