Safety is key and agricultural workers have even more to think about as they find themselves working outside during the hottest parts of summer.
The Delaware Farm Bureau is urging farmers to refresh their knowledge on occupational hazards, as well as warning signs and prevention tips for heat stroke, heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses.
“Take the time to put the sunblock on, grab the hat, drink more water. Our health as farmers doesn’t impact just us – it’s about our family and community, too,” DEFB Executive Director Don Clifton said.
On his farm in Sussex County, the work doesn’t stop when summertime brings hotter temperatures. In fact, Clifton said, the higher temperatures can sometimes mean extra work, increasing the safety risks associated with farming.
“Sometimes the equipment struggles or even overheats in the higher temperatures like we do. But it’s not just that. The sun is very important to our land and the crops we grow, but it could be devastating if it’s incredibly hot. Too much heat and too little water, for example, could ruin our crop for the year if we don’t put in extra work to salvage what we can,” Clifton said. “It’s easy to think about how livestock could struggle in incredible heat situations, too. We need to be sure we’re compensating for the heat and getting our animals the things they need to make it through the day just like we do for ourselves.”
A few prevention tips could go a long way while farmers work during the heat of summer, according to DEFB.
- Get plenty to drink throughout the day. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states on its website that, “Workers should be encouraged to drink at least one cup (8 ounces) of water every 20 minutes while working in the heat, not just if they are thirsty.”
- Wear sunscreen and reapply it throughout the day. Wear a hat, sunglasses and clothing that is light-colored and light-weight.
- Take frequent cool-down breaks from the sun.
- Schedule work that must be completed outdoors for the morning or evening hours whenever possible.
- Use the buddy system. Ensure that someone knows where you or your employees are around the farm.
Some heat-related illnesses, like sunburns, heat rashes or heat cramps, are minor at first and will usually go away within days with treatment. These issues could lead to or be symptoms of other, more serious, medical concerns.
According to Delaware Health and Social Services’ Bureau of Chronic Diseases, sunburns could lead to skin cancer. Heat rashes and heat cramps could be symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. All of these concerns could be deadly if not treated as soon as possible.
Symptoms for heat exhaustion and heat stroke are similar and can include fainting, dizziness, confusion, headache, muscle cramps, nausea or diarrhea, rapid heartbeat and dark-colored urine.
Sweating heavily or profusely with cold, pale, clammy skin is another symptom of heat exhaustion. This is different from heat stroke which could cause someone to have red, dry and hot skin without sweat as the body is struggling to regulate its temperature. Seizures and rapid, shallow breath could also accompany heat stroke symptoms.
If heat exhaustion is suspected, the affected person should cool down immediately and sip water – do not drink a lot of water quickly. Call 9-1-1 if symptoms last for more than one hour or worsen.
If heat stroke is suspected, 9-1-1 should be called immediately. The affected person should not drink anything, but they should be cooled down while waiting for medical personnel to arrive.
“It’s incredibly important for us to take care of ourselves, our family members and our employees. Yes, it takes extra time during the day to put on sunscreen or take extra breaks. But it doesn’t take much extra time and it’s worth it. If we don’t do that, imagine how much time we would spend at the doctor’s office or even worse? We have to remember to take care of business and that includes our bodies,” Clifton urged.
For more information about the Delaware Farm Bureau or to see more health and safety related tips, visit www.defb.org.