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farming safely

The dangers of heat stress


As temperatures rise, taking proper preventive measures will protect health, improve safety and increase productivity. eat stress is serious.

Controlling heat stress related to agricultural work is

especially important to pesticide handlers and “early entry” workers who must wear protective gear —but it can affect anyone.

A buildup of body heat generated either internally by muscle use or externally by the environment can lead to heat stress. As the heat increases, body temperature and the heart rate rise painlessly.

During hot weather, heat illness can be an underlying cause of other types of injuries, such as heart attacks, falls and equipment accidents.

The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke. The symptoms are confusion, irrational behaviour, convulsions, coma, and death. In some cases, the side effects of heat stroke are heat sensitivity and varying degrees of brain and kidney damage. Preventing heat stress will: Protect health. Heat illness is preventable and treatable before it is life threatening. Improve safety. Any heat stress can impair functioning. Increase productivity. People work slower and less efficiently when they are suffering from heat stress. Employers, supervisors and workers all have an essential role to play in preventing heat stress. All should use good judgment to prevent heat-related illness.

Key elements for controlling heat

stress are:  Drink one glass of water every 15 to 30 minutes worked, depending on the heat and humidity. This is the best way to replace lost body fluid.  Read medication labels to know how cause the body to react to the sun and heat.  Avoid alcohol and drugs as they can increase the effects of heat.  Build up tolerance for working in the heat. Heat tolerance is normally built up over a one to two week time period.  Take breaks to cool down. A10-15 minute break every two hours is effective.n  Adapt work and pace to the weather.  Provide heat stress training to workers and supervisors.  Manage work activities and match them to employees’ physical condition.

HEAT STROKE FIRST AID:  Move the victim to a cool place. Remove heavy clothing; light clothing can be left in place.  Immediately cool the victim by any available means. Such as placing ice packs at areas with abundant blood supply (neck, armpits, and groin). Wet towels or sheets are also effective. The cloths should be kept wet with cool water.  To prevent hypothermia continue cooling the victim until their temperature drops to 102 degrees Fahrenheit.  Keep the victim's head and shoulders slightly elevated.  Seek medical attention

22 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2012

immediately. All heat stroke victims need hospitalization.  Care for seizures if they occur.  Do not use aspirin or acetaminophen.

FIRST AID:  Move the victim to a cool place.  Keep the victim lying down with legs straight and elevated 8-12 inches.  Cool the victim by applying cold packs or wet towels or cloths. Fan the victim.  Give the victim cold water if he or she is fully conscious.  If no improvement is noted within 30 minutes, seek medical attention. When possible, schedule heavy tasks and work requiring protective gear for cooler, morning or evening hours. Postpone non-essential tasks during prolonged, extreme hot temperatures. Most protective clothing limits sweat evaporation (but not sweat production) and chemical-resistant suits can cause rapid dehydration if sweat is not replaced. One way to slow the buildup of heat is to use special cooling garments.


If the temperature is above 20 degrees C (70 F), cooling vests may be useful when pesticide handlers are wearing chemical-resistant suits and are either doing heavy or moderate work for a lengthy period. If it’s above 27 C (80 F) working in chemical- resistant suits for more than a half hour without taking frequent water and rest breaks is unsafe. Cooling garments and frequent breaks are recommended.

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