BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Not everyone can stay inside for work. Some people such, as farmworkers and construction workers, have to brave the heat. That’s why the Dolores Huerta Foundation is pushing for employers to enforce the California Heat Illness Prevention Law.
“According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, farmworkers die from heat-related illnesses at a rate 20 times greater than the rest of us civilian workers," said Camila Chavez, executive director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. "The life expectancy of a farmworker here in the United States is only 49 years old.”
Chavez said that while the law was being implemented farmworkers continued to face medical repercussions from the heat.
“In that span of time, we know that many farmworkers did die of heat illness but, there are only two states in the United States of America, California, and Washington, that have implemented standards that protect outdoor workers from heat stress,” said Chavez
The law requires outdoor workers to have access to shade and water and was passed in 2005. Chavez said while a settlement was reached in 2015 for more enforcement, there is still not enough being done today to protect farmworkers.
“We’ll continue to advocate for enforcement, there are state agencies that are responsible for enforcement and that’s really the best thing that can happen,” said Chavez
She also said it shouldn’t be up to their foundation to fight for enforcement.
“It shouldn’t really be up to community groups like us, it should be the employers that are providing those masks for their workers and unfortunately that’s not happening,” said Chavez
This is resulting in heat-related deaths.
“According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 505 heat-related deaths in the United States in 2019,” said Chavez.
Kern Medical doctor, James Rosbrugh said a heat stroke is what some may be facing when out in the heat.
“In heat stroke, the brain is so confused that it can’t even regulate temperature anymore, for those people they get very confused," said Rosbrugh "They stop sweating so their temperatures get super high and they can have heat stroke that can cause permanent brain damage or even death.”
When it comes to heat-related illness, Rosebrugh said at Kern Medical, they have seen a 30 or more percent increase since Kern has had triple-digit temperatures.