Farmworkers in the US more likely to die from extreme heat

Many people will not know that in the US, extreme heat kills more people each year than floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. An average of 702 heat-related deaths takes place each year. Farmworkers are 20 times more likely than other outdoor workers to die from the extreme heat that has gripped much of the US; Latinos make up around 75% of farmworkers there.

For outdoor workers, "increasingly frequent instances of extreme heat would substantially decrease the number of safe workdays per year," writes the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

According to research from the Adrienne-Arsht Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, on average, a Latino worker is likely to experience around 40 to 45 days with maximum temperatures above 90 °F. White workers are exposed to high temperatures for approximately 25 to 30 days per year.

Overall Latinos comprise 32.3% of construction workers and 43.4% of workers in agriculture (including farmworkers), forestry, fishing and hunting, per data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Since Latinos comprise a large part of the outdoor working population, they will be "disproportionately exposed" to extreme heat, compared to the general population.

The federal government currently does not have any heat-safety standards to protect outdoor workers. Instead, the Labor Department puts that responsibility on individual employers. But without an enforced standard, employers do not have any specific guidance on how to address extreme heat, says Rachel Licker, a senior climate scientist with UCS.


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