June 14, 2023

Week 3 of National Safety Month: Heat-Related Illness

Every year, workers in agriculture and other industries become ill due to exposure to high temperatures. Some of these injuries, unfortunately, also become fatalities. As temperatures increase, it is important to take precautions to prevent heat illness. Following guidelines created by Cal/OSHA and other safety professionals will help workers from experiencing heat illness.

Workers should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness and take appropriate action to protect themselves and their coworkers. Some common symptoms of heat illness include:

  • Heat cramps: muscle cramps and spasms, usually in the legs or abdomen, that occurred during or after physical activity in hot weather.
  • Heat exhaustion: weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache, sweating and cool, moist skin can be precursors to heat stroke if not treated properly.
  • Heat stroke: life threatening emergency that occurs when a body’s temperature regulation system fails. Symptoms include high body temperature above 103°F, confusion, agitation, seizures and loss of consciousness. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention.

As part of a safety plan, employers should have a written program to address heat illness prevention that addresses critical factors, including:

  • Appropriate steps to take when temperatures reach certain critical thresholds.
  • Procedures for providing sufficient, potable water that is easily accessible to employees.
  • Procedures for providing access to shade or other appropriate cool-down areas.
  • Appropriate emergency response actions that should be taken if an employee is demonstrating signs or symptoms of heat-related illness.
  • Methods and procedures to assist workers, especially new workers, in acclimatizing to warm environments should be included in standard practices.

Employee safety training, including heat illness prevention training, is available through Western Growers Insurance Services.

Some additional resources can also be found on the following sites:

– Cal/OSHA provides a Heat Illness Prevention eTool that can be found here.

– Federal OSHA heat injury prevention resources can be found here.

– The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool (mobile app) can assist in planning outdoor work activities.  Additional information regarding the app can be found here.

Western Growers Insurance Services is a full-service insurance brokerage offering a suite of insurance and tailored risk management solutions to agribusiness and related industry members. For more information or assistance, please contact Ken Cooper, Director Risk Strategy for Western Growers Insurance Services, at [email protected].

June has been designated as National Safety Month by the National Safety Council. This event is intended to increase awareness of workplace safety topics and reinforce our collaborative responsibility to keep each other safe. Safety is everyone’s responsibility!

This article is one of a four-part, weekly series following the topics designated for National Safety Month.  The topics are:

Week 1: Emergency Preparedness – Planning and training are the most critical steps to ensure appropriate actions are taken when an emergency occurs.   

Week 2: Slips, Trips, Falls – A frequent cause of significant workplace injury and associated costs. These types of incidents are often preventable. 

Week 3: Heat-Related Illness – According to OSHA, heat illness is a serious occupational hazard that affects workers in many industries, especially those who work outdoors or in hot indoor environments.

Week 4: Hazard Recognition – Being able to spot hazards and implement appropriate corrective action can mean the difference between injury and safety.