IDAHO — Extreme heat throughout the region is raising concerns among local farmworker advocates, including the Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance (IIRA).
IIRA is now collecting donations and raising funds for heat and smoke relief efforts to directly benefit the area's farmworkers.
“We want to make sure they are staying cool, hydrated, and possibly have shade,” said Samantha Guerrero, a bilingual community organizer with the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils (IORC). “We are currently fundraising to purchase water bottles to get out to them, to purchase coolers and anything else they may need such as protective equipment. They will also have to face the wildfires and breathe in that air, and we are hoping to get N95 masks as well.”
IIRA is an organization made of eight nonprofits that began helping farmworkers and immigrant communities when the COVID-19 pandemic started.
Guerrero is one of the co-founders of the organization.
“I am a daughter of farmworkers. My grandfather worked here in the state as a migrant farmworker. My uncles and my mother did as well. I grew up hearing the struggles of them as farmworkers, as people who were monolingual at that time. They didn’t feel they had the support of the community to be there for them. I want farmworkers to know that they do have a community here. People in the state of Idaho do care about those harvesting their food.”
The organization is accepting monetary donations or items such as bottled water, coolers, reusable ice packs, cooling scarves, sunscreen, and canopies. The items can be drop off at the locations below and funds can be donated here.
Donation Drop-off Locations:
El Arcoiris, Migrant Head Start
3505 Airbase Rd, Mountain Home
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Community Council of Idaho
317 Happy Day Blvd Suite 180, Caldwell
7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Immigrant Justice Idaho
3775 W Cassia St, Boise
9:30 a.m. -5:30 p.m.
2399 S Orchard St. Suite 102, Boise
8:00 a.m - 5:00 p.m.
HOW CAN EMPLOYERS PROTECT WORKERS FROM HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS OR HEAT EXHAUSTION
Director for the Boise area Office Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Dave Kearns, says there are safety measures employers can take to protect workers during a heatwave.
“OSHA has long had the campaign to prevent heat illness where employers need to provide not only water but also rest and shade,” Kearns said.
Water: Even for moderate work activities, a rule of thumb is a cup of cool water every 30 minutes, even if not thirsty. For prolonged work, drinks to replenish salt other electrolytes and should also be included.
Rest: Breaks long enough to recover from the heat, depending on the temps and level of activity.
Shade: Provide for the work done. If not possible, then breaks in a cool and shaded location. When possible, fans and misting devices can help to recover more quickly.
Kearns said the office is investigating a possible heat-illness death in Lewiston.
“We did receive a notification of a young man working at an arborist company at the Lewiston area, about midday started to exhibit some signs pretty typical to heat illness, and unfortunately, succumbed to the illness by the end of the day. We are doing an investigation and working with the medical examiner up there to really pin down what the cause of death was,” Kearns said.
According to OSHA, about 50% to 70% of outdoor deaths happen when a person’s body hasn’t built a tolerance to the heat when working for the first few days in hot environments.
“When it gets this hot, even the most healthy and acclimatized person will struggle to keep their body temperature down. Especially with prolonged exposure to the heat and sun, even more, when engaged in moderate or heavy work activities. It is human nature to underestimate or get complacent and think it is just heat -- you can push through it. We all have felt the effects of heat stress before. However, just pushing through it without taking precautions can turn serious very quickly,” Kearns said.
GOV. KATE BROWN INSTRUCTS OSHA TO ADD EMERGENCY RULES TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM INTENSE HEAT
IIRA efforts to provide heat and smoke relief for Idaho farmworkers also started after hearing about a recent death of a farmworker in Oregon.
Jose Carnevali with the Office of Public Affairs U.S. Department of Labor said Oregon OSHA is investigating the case.
Oregon OSHA’s website shows the incident occurred on June 26 in St. Paul and is being investigated as a possible heat fatality.
On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown ordered Oregon OSHA to implement emergency rules that will require employers to protect their workers from hot temperatures.
In a statement, Brown said:
“No one should have to decide between their health and a paycheck,” said Governor Brown. “All Oregonians should be able to go to work knowing that conditions will be safe and that they will return home to their families at the end of the day. While Oregon OSHA has been working to adopt permanent rules related to heat, it became clear that immediate action was necessary in order to protect Oregonians, especially those whose work is critical to keeping Oregon functioning and oftentimes must continue during extreme weather.
“I am concerned that our recent record-breaking heatwave in the Willamette Valley is a harbinger of what’s to come. Even with the immense resources directed to preparing communities for the excessive heat, it is critical that we need to be better prepared, flexible, and resilient. At the same time, we must center the voices of historically underserved communities in our emergency planning efforts to make sure we’re meeting all community members where they are.”
In response, the Governor has directed state agencies to complete an after-action review to determine how the state can improve its response efforts and outcomes. She will also be meeting with agency heads, county leaders, Oregon’s Medicaid Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs), and impacted communities over the next several weeks to hear their recommendations, ensure steps are being taken immediately to prepare for the next heatwave, and to discuss how to better prepare to protect the health of low-income Oregonians as we anticipate additional extreme weather events in the future.