Extreme Heat Making it Dangerous For Valley Farm Workers

Claudia Buccio

Temperatures this week are over 110 degrees making it harder for people who work out in the fields. One of those workers is Gustavo Salazar, but for him, it is just another day on the job. Salazar, 27, has only been in the Coachella Valley for 18 months.

“I’m used to the weather because it’s similar to the one in my hometown in Mexico. But honestly, sometimes the heat is unbearable,” Salazar said.

Salazar is in charge of watering the lands as farmers prepare to plant new crops. At the company where he works there are about 100 employees, and all of them have to deal with the weather.

“If you’re not feeling well you have to stop,” Salazar said. “When necessary, we’ll just call our boss and he’ll tell us to take a break or keep working.”

According to Salazar, his managers encourage workers to take breaks when necessary. If they want to keep working, it is a personal decision. They are not forced to work if the heat becomes unbearable.

Through workshops and events, the United Farm Workers Foundation (UFWF) has told workers that if temperatures are over 95 degrees, they should take a 10 min break every two hours. They should also have access to clean, drinking water.

After working at farms in both Mexico and the U.S., Salazar has found a couple tips of his own.

In terms of clothing, he wears light colored long-sleeved shirts, a hat, and working boots. sometimes even sunglasses can be helpful.

His best advice is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

“I’ve seen that in other places people will drink beer or energy drinks but that doesn’t help it all” Salazar said. “The key is to drink plenty of water. Just water because if you drink sweet things, you’ll get thirstier.”

Salazar said the job is not easy, so all he asks from outsiders is to be respectful of his trade. While it is pretty hot right now, for Salazar, the worst is yet to come. He said the worst month for him is August because the weather is hot and humid.

When the the day comes to an end Salazar, is grateful to leave and see his wife and kids at home, but tomorrow, he has to be back at work at 5 am when temperatures are creeping up to 90 degrees.

Other workers out in the fields told us that when it is this hot, they usually start their shifts earlier, so they can go home around 2 pm.

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