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Organization sees donations come in to support local farmworkers as heatwave continues

Posted at 9:16 PM, Jul 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 09:39:17-04

IDAHO — The Idaho Immigrant Resource Alliance (IIRA) has started distributing bottled waters and other items to farmworkers in Canyon County to provide heat relief as the heatwave continues.

IIRA has been collecting donations and raising funds to benefit the area’s farmworkers.

“Just seeing the farmworkers really happy and excited that we are providing these supplies to them is really amazing,” said Irene Ruiz organizer and one of the co-founders of IIRA. “To be able to work in the community and support the community is one of the most important things we can do for each other.”

The organization has been seeking items, like canopies, N95 masks, coolers, and bottled waters. Community Council of Idaho said Idaho Central Credit Union donated several packages of bottled water.

Ruiz said she worked in the agricultural fields for eight years in the Magic Valley.

“As a former farmworker working in this tremendous heat can be really hard and difficult times, but you do what you and you take the precautions to keep working,” Ruiz said.
While working Ruiz recalls there weren’t many areas for shade and she would sit inside her car with the windows open to cope with the extreme heat.

“I’m really proud that I was a former farmworker, that’s something no one can take away from me. Experience is something amazing and a lot of people look down on farmworkers but the thing they do for us and the food they put on our table, right now especially during a pandemic and heatwave,” Ruiz said.

On Thursday the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented emergency rules to protect workers from intense heat after Governor Kate Brown directed the agency to adopt the rules.

According to OSHA the rule is temporary and will be in place for 180 days. The rule will increase shade and access to cool water.

“This rule creates greater clarity for employers about the specific steps that need to be taken to protect workers from heat stress dangers at work," said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA “For employees, it further crystalizes their existing rights to protection from heat hazards where they work."

Scott Allen, U.S. Department of Labor Regional Director for Public Affairs and Media Relations said, Idaho falls under federal OSHA jurisdiction and the agency is taking steps to update its heat-illness prevention campaign and website.

In statement Allen said,

"The materials build awareness of prevention strategies, including the importance of acclimatization, a method to support the development of heat tolerance, drinking water, adequate rest breaks, access to shade or cool areas, dressing for the heat, and monitoring for signs of heat stress. They also emphasize that heat illness can quickly become a medical emergency. If a worker experiences confusion, slurred speech, seizures, or loss of consciousness, call 911, cool them, and stay with them until help arrives,” Allen said.

In late June, a farmworker in Oregon died due to the heat and in the wake of the death, it raise concerns among local farmworkers advocates.

“It’s very impactful because we want to make sure and ensure all the farmworkers are taking care of and safety precautions happening, so that doesn’t happen in this state. We want to make sure that we are providing the supplies and the support to keep the farmworkers safe,” Ruiz said.