It’s a Hot 80-Degree Day: Has Your Lone Worker Checked In?

It’s a Hot 80-Degree Day: Has Your Lone Worker Checked In?

Summer heat will affect everyone, but it will be particularly hard on those working in agriculture, spending long hours outside in the blistering temperatures.

On June 20, 2020, the sun reached its highest point in the sky, marking the first day of summer. For the next few months, most of the US will be seeing more daylight and warmer, even scorching, temperatures. This heat will affect everyone, but it will be particularly hard on those working in agriculture, spending long hours outside in the blistering temperatures.

When a worker is exposed to extreme heat, their body temperature rises quickly, and they can experience heat illness which includes a number of debilitating symptoms such as muscle cramping, fatigue, headache, nausea or dizziness. They can also experience dehydration and fainting which can lead to horrible errors operating machinery or to a crippling if not deadly fall, a common cause of injuries for agricultural workers. But on top of that, these workers who help feed people in this country and around the world are exposed to hazardous chemicals, such as pesticides and cleaning agents.

Despite the multitude of safety risks that these workers face every day, there are proactive steps that can be taken to protect these people so that they can go home safely to their families at the end of the day.

Deadly Falls

Falls are one of the most common causes for injury and death in agriculture. Falls usually occur off ladders, farm machinery, trucks and roofs. You can prevent falls by:

  • Using safety harnesses when working from dangerous heights
  • Installing good lighting where falls might occur
  • Using non-slip tape and matting where workers frequent
  • Attaching grab rails on ramps, steps, ladders, trucks and machinery
  • Equipping your workers with well-fitting footwear that have non-slip soles
  • Providing an automated fall-detection device due to exhaustion or dehydration

Heat Exhaustion and Dehydration

During the hot summer months, heat exhaustion and dehydration in agriculture workers is very prevalent. For example, the State of California states that workers “shall be allowed and encouraged to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating.” It is also recommended that adult males drink at least 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of fluid a day and adult females drink 2.7 liters (91 ounces) a day. Dehydration can be prevented by:

  • Providing water to hydrate before a worker’s shift
  • Providing regularly replenished, potable water stations throughout the work areas (Workers must have the opportunity to drink one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes)
  • Providing light-colored or reflective, breathable and loose-fitting work clothing
  • Providing headwear that keeps direct sunlight away from the head and face
  • Planning regular breaks for workers in shaded or air-conditioned areas
  • Scheduling heavy work that requires personal protective equipment later in the day
  • Providing dependable emergency communications for the workers in case they are not feeling well

Hazardous Chemicals

Agriculture workers are exposed to a number of potentially hazardous chemicals such as pesticides, ammonia and sanitizers, and they can easily inhale and absorb them through their skin. To mitigate this hazard, consider using non-toxic options whenever possible. When this is not an option, to protect your workers, you must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) such as glasses, face masks, boots, gloves and respirators. Your team must be properly trained and educated about how to use hazardous chemicals.

Additionally, like water stations to hydrate your workers, you must have first aid stations with clean water to flush out the chemical after the person has come into contact with it. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation states that lone agriculture workers must check in every hour and be in communication with a responsible adult when handling pesticides. This can be done via personal, radio, telephone or automated system contact.

Hazardous Machinery

When it comes to preventing injuries from farm equipment, the most important step you can take is to thoroughly train your workers on how to use this machinery. You must emphasize thoughtful operation of the machinery and encourage workers not to rush during use. The said machinery must be properly and regularly maintained, and any repairs must be promptly made. Like working with hazardous chemicals, you must provide your workers with proper PPE and not allow loose clothing that can become entangled in moving parts.

Proactive Measures

To prevent one of these incidents from even occurring, it is beneficial to build a build positive safety culture within your agriculture operations. A proactive strategy to protecting your workers will not only minimize your risk but will help you be ready when an accident does happen. The first step in creating a strong culture of safety is identifying the hazards in the workplace, minimizing the chance of an accident or injury occurring.

Address and Implement

Once you’ve identified the hazards on your agricultural operation, you then need to address them and implement the necessary steps to mitigate the risks and protect your workers out in the field. Not only is the wellbeing of your valued workers at stake, but so is your business and operations. The hazards of farm operations may vary, but no matter what, you need to exhaustively assess all of the risks facing your workers, explore ways to quell these risks and then implement them as soon as possible—your team, their families and your business will thank you.

Download Center

  • Safety Metrics Guide

    Is your company leveraging its safety data and analytics to maintain a safe workplace? With so much data available, where do you start? This downloadable guide will give you insight on helpful key performance indicators (KPIs) you should track for your safety program.

  • Job Hazard Analysis Guide

    This guide includes details on how to conduct a thorough Job Hazard Analysis, and it's based directly on an OSHA publication for conducting JHAs. Learn how to identify potential hazards associated with each task of a job and set controls to mitigate hazard risks.

  • A Guide to Practicing “New Safety”

    Learn from safety professionals from around the world as they share their perspectives on various “new views” of safety, including Safety Differently, Safety-II, No Safety, Human and Organizational Performance (HOP), Resilience Engineering, and more in this helpful guide.

  • Lone Worker Safety Guide

    As organizations digitalize and remote operations become more commonplace, the number of lone workers is on the rise. These employees are at increased risk for unaddressed workplace accidents or emergencies. This guide was created to help employers better understand common lone worker risks and solutions for lone worker risk mitigation and incident prevention.

  • EHS Software Buyer's Guide

    Learn the keys to staying organized, staying sharp, and staying one step ahead on all things safety. This buyer’s guide is designed for you to use in your search for the safety management solution that best suits your company’s needs.

  • Vector Solutions

OH&S Digital Edition

  • OHS Magazine Digital Edition - June 2022

    June 2022

    Featuring:

    • SAFETY CULTURE
      Corporate Safety Culture Is Workplace Culture
    • HEAT STRESS
      Keeping Workers Safe from Heat-Related Illnesses & Injuries
    • EMPLOYEE HEALTH SCREENING
      Should Employers Consider Oral Fluid Drug Testing?
    • PPE FOR WOMEN
      Addressing Physical Differences
    View This Issue