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Teenager develops app to protect farmworkers from heat-related illness

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A high school senior with farmworker roots may have found a way to keep workers safe when the weather is scorching hot.

 

Faith Florez, 17, has created an app that alerts workers when temperatures reach 95 degrees. It also gives tips for keeping cool and serves as a direct link to first responders in case of emergency.

 

Currently in the crowd-funding stage, the app, called Calor, has nearly reached its $60,000 goal. It also has begun to attract social media attention.

 


Florez, who grew up in Shafter, is the daughter of former California state legislator Dean Florez. She will graduate next spring from La Canada High School in Flintridge.

 


She got the idea for the app as she studied ways to help her community. She looked at her family’s history of farmwork and some of farm labor’s biggest challenges, including worker safety.

 

Florez learned from news reports and government statistics that over the last decade, 55 farmworkers in California have died from a heat-related illness. And although state laws exist protecting workers, she believed more could be done, using modern tools.

 

“I really wanted to start a project that melded community service and technology,” she said. “And I knew that in California, farmworkers were suffering by working in the fields in 100-degree heat.”

 

Florez was fortunate to have her concept accepted by a social justice-minded team of University of Southern California students from Viterbi School of Engineering. The group helped her develop the web-based app.

 

After an intense year of meetings with farmers, contractors, farm workers and state regulators, the Calor app was born.

 

As part of the plan for Calor, the money raised from crowd funding would go to run a pilot program with 60 workers. Workers will wear an Apple watch that will alert them when the temperature reaches potentially dangerous levels.

 

Florez said it’s likely the employer would purchase the watch for their employees.

 

Although the cost may scare some away, Florez said there are tangible benefits to employers. Insurance rates could drop for employers taking extra precautions to keep workers safe. Workers also would perform better if they are taking time to cool down and not physically stressed from the heat.

 

This article appeared on the Fresno Bee website on Dec. 6, 2017.  

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