Texas is experiencing consistent triple digit temperatures this summer and it is quickly becoming a record breaking year. Agricultural workers frequently work outside during the heat of the day or in enclosed environments that are not climate controlled. Protecting yourself and workers from the effects of heat is vital to their health and productivity.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has also taken notice of the extreme weather and released updated heat safety information.
Factors that May Cause Heat-related Illness
• High temperature and humidity
• Low fluid consumption
• Direct sun exposure (with no shade) or extreme heat
• Limited air movement (no breeze or wind)
• Physical exertion
• Use of bulky protective clothing and equipment
• Poor physical condition or ongoing health problems
• Some medications
• Lack of previous exposure to hot workplaces
• Previous heat-related illness
Health Problems Caused by Hot Work Environments
Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related health problem. Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature regulating system fails and body temperature rises to critical levels (greater than 104°F).This is a medical emergency that may result in death! The signs of heat stroke are confusion, loss of consciousness and seizures. Workers experiencing heat stroke have a very high body temperature and may stop sweating. If a worker shows signs of possible heat stroke, get medical help immediately, and call 911. Until medical help arrives, move the worker to a
shady, cool area and remove as much clothing as possible. Wet the worker with cool water and circulate the air to speed cooling. Place cold wet cloths, wet towels or ice all over the body or soak the worker’s clothing with cold water.
Heat Exhaustion is the next most serious heat-related health problem. The signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, thirst, heavy sweating and a body temperature greater than 100.4°F. Workers with heat exhaustion should be removed from the hot area and given liquids to drink. Remove unnecessary clothing including shoes and socks. Cool the worker with cold compresses to the head, neck, and face or have the worker wash his or her head, face and neck with cold water. Encourage frequent sips of cool water. Workers with signs or symptoms of heat exhaustion should be taken to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment. Make sure that someone stays with the worker until help arrives. If symptoms worsen, call 911 and get help immediately.
Heat Cramps are muscle pains usually caused by physical labor in a hot work environment. Heat
cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Workers with heat cramps
should replace fluid loss by drinking water and/or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquids (e.g., sports drinks) every 15 to 20 minutes.
Heat Rash is the most common problem in hot work environments. Heat rash is caused by sweating and looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. Heat rash usually appears on the neck, upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts and in elbow creases. The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid work environment. The rash area should be kept dry. Powder may be applied to increase comfort. Ointments and creams should not be used on a heat rash. Anything that makes the skin warm or moist may make the rash worse.