By Hilario Garcia
The morning of Tuesday, June 11, 2019, started like any other for Jose Lopez, one of the loss control consultants here at Western Growers Insurance Services (WGIS). He was conducting first aid/CPR training for the management team of one of our clients. It was one of the hottest days of the year, with temperatures reaching the high 90s. The training was going according to plan until Jose was pulled from his session.
He was told that his assistance was needed in assessing one of the field employees who was transported from another side of the property. After hearing that they were attempting to bring the core temperature down for this employee, Jose immediately knew that this “standard assessment” was going to be one he would never forget. He quickly yelled, “Call 911!” and ran over to the container cooler she had been taken to.
Once in front of the employee, it didn’t take long for her to start showing signs of heat stroke. Jose immediately noticed that she was beginning to have convulsions and intermittent breathing patterns. Then, she suddenly stopped breathing for about 15-20 seconds. It was in that moment that Jose recalled, “Everything just stopped around us,” and his professional training instincts kicked in. As other employees brought over wet towels to place on the back of her head, Jose took all the steps necessary to help her regain consciousness, keep her talking, and test the severity of her symptoms until the paramedics arrived.
“What’s your daughter’s name? Can you sing me a song?” Those were only some of the questions Jose kept requesting, initially getting responses only half of the time. Soon after, half of the time turned into every time, which could not have made Jose more relieved. He took a deep breath as if he was back in that moment and mentioned, “I was no longer ‘Jose the Trainer’, I was ‘Jose the Human’ and I knew this was someone’s daughter, sister, mother, wife, and friend.” It didn’t take long for the paramedics to arrive on scene and quickly take over.
Western Growers is very proactive about reducing the number of incidents related to heat illness, and reducing heat illness. Our clients take all the necessary steps to adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) requirements for heat illness prevention including developing and following a written program. Aside from making sure all of your employees and supervisors are properly trained, it is important to always remember to provide water, access to shade with frequent cool-down breaks, and a strong plan. Taking the time to plan for all situations can help everyone stay safe while remaining compliant.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “heat-related deaths are one of the deadliest weather-related health outcomes in the United States,” with some of the highest incidents in Arizona, California and Texas. Although every heat-related incident is preventable when you are at work, OSHA reported more than 40 people have died to some type of heat illness at work since 2017. That’s 40-plus lives that could have been saved if the employees and their supervisors were properly trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness and knew when and how to get help.
At WGIS, we pride ourselves on being a full service insurance brokerage serving the agriculture industry. As part of the services and resources we offer, bilingual loss control consultants are on staff and passionate about educating our clients. Assistance with training on this topic, and others, can be coordinated at any time. We understand the regulations that affect your business, and the precious lives you are expected to take care of. Our team will help you become aware and committed to work-site safety and health by reviewing the regulatory language and heat illness preventive measures.
Perfect timing and by-the-book actions are the only ways to describe what happened that Tuesday afternoon in June. Jose had never had an experience like that before, but he realized that your safety training can go out the window if you can’t remember what was taught to you. If you do not retain the important information that is taught during one of our trainings, someone’s life is potentially in danger.
“You really don’t appreciate training like ours until you need it,” said Jose. That passion and real life experience is what makes the WGIS team different; we ensure you are properly trained, and we genuinely care about what we do and the people we do it for.
Scheduling and receiving the required and proper safety trainings that we offer is an investment in your operation, and in the lives and welfare of your employees and supervisors. If you are interested in scheduling a training, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me directly at (559) 351-5493.