By: Vashti Kelly, Program Manager
Regulating body temperature during summer months is challenging, even under normal circumstances. Imagine being a farm worker toiling under the intense summer sun for long hours; therefore, special consideration and precautions must be taken to keep farm workers as safe as possible on the job.
Extreme heat and the risk of a heat related illness, such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heat rashes, all very real likelihoods for farm workers commonly exposed to such conditions.
Although, there are personal risk factors that can increase one’s risk of heat stress, it can also be attributed to external/environmental factors:
- Shade or cloud cover
- Presence of heavy machinery
- Time of day
- Heavy clothing
- Pesticide exposure
It is important to note that often farm workers are not consciously aware of their body temperatures or even how their bodies are reacting to the heat. Therefore, it is important to wear the proper attire – clothing is key in helping to regulate one’s body temperature in conditions of extreme heat.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommend one layer of thin clothing, a long-sleeve shirt and long pants. Clothing serves as a barrier between the skin and the environment.
When conducting health and safety training, AFOP Health & Safety trainers recommend wearing light colored, loose fitting clothing because it does not absorb the heat from the sun’s rays like dark colors would and it allows the air to circulate without trapping sweat to the skin.
Remember: heat stress prevention starts before farm workers even reach the fields, which is why taking a proactive approach is the best policy. A simple tactic in prevention begins with clothing. Wearing the proper attire allows the body to manage its response to hot and humid conditions enabling farm workers to maintain natural internal temperatures keeping them safe.
Although, it is important to wear the proper clothing when working it is vital to think about when, where and how you work to maintain one’s health and safety.
- When possible, work during the cooler hours of the day
- Be careful about working in the heat during a heat wave, since your body may not be accustomed to the high temperatures
- Work with a partner to keep an eye on each other
For more information on heat stress prevention and how to recognize the symptoms check out the AFOP website.