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Heat-Related Risks For Outdoor Workers: Protect Yourself And Know Your Rights

Did You Know?

  • Agricultural, forestry, and fishing workers are 35x more likely to die from heat than other workers
  • Men are 32x more likely to die from heat than women
  • Age is NOT a significant risk factor, young men can also die
  • 34% of heat related deaths occur during July
  • Most workers fall ill between 12 pm and 6 pm
  • 71% of workers who die from heat exposure die on the day they got sick

What is Heat Stress?

Heat stress occurs when your body has excess heat and is unable to get rid of it. Your normal body temperature should be around 97-99 degrees, but if it rises above 100 degrees, you may be at risk of heat stress. There are several stages of Heat Stress that you should not ignore: 1. Heat rash, 2. Heat cramps, 3. Heat Exhaustion, and 4. Heat Stroke.

 

How Do You Treat Heat Stress?

Working outside in the hottest months can be hard on your body and can quickly turn into Heat Stress. For low severity cases, precautions should still be taken. For both Heat Rash and Heat Cramps you should immediately find some sort of shade, change your clothing to keep your skin dry, and hydrate with water and electrolyte solutions.

In cases with increased severity, you may experience dizziness, fainting, headache, nausea, vomiting, irritability, decreased urination, and increased thirst. To treat these more severe symptoms, there are several things to do. If the worker has fainted or has a combination of symptoms, they should seek medical attention right away. Move the worker safely into a cooler area in the shade and remove any unnecessary clothing like jackets, socks, and shoes. Encourage the worker to take small sips of water, and NEVER leave them alone.

There are also several emergency symptoms of Heat Stroke to be aware of including confusion, a change in behavior, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, high body temperature, a stop in sweating, and profuse sweating.

In emergencies, if the worker has multiple of these Heat Stroke symptoms, it can be a fatal situation. CALL 911! While waiting for paramedics, move the worker to a shaded area and immerse the individual (up to their neck) in cool water if possible, without risk of drowning. If it is not possible to immerse the individual, put ice packs, cold water rags, or other cool items on the individual’s body and begin to fan them. Remember- do NOT leave the person alone!

 

What is Dehydration?

Dehydration can be a dangerous loss of body fluid caused by illness, sweating, or inadequate intake of water. Workers can be dehydrated without experiencing a heat related illness. Urine color is an important indicator of level of hydration.

A pale yellow or translucent yellow color of urine indicates that an individual is properly hydrated. As the color progresses to a darker yellow, amber, or even brown, it is an indication that someone is dehydrated and needs to hydrate immediately.

Lack of fluids is just one cause of dehydration. It can also be caused by acute kidney injury, rhabdomyolysis, increased risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and an increased risk of kidney stones.

 

How Do You Treat Dehydration?

The best treatment for dehydration is prevention. Those working outside should drink at least half a liter of water before beginning work. This intake should be kept up at a rate of about 1 liter per hour.

It can also be helpful to supplement with electrolytes like Gatorade (mix 2 parts water, 1 part Gatorade), or homemade electrolytes (1/4 to ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, and stir into 1 liter of water). Eating foods with natural electrolytes can also be beneficial. These include foods like bananas, watermelon, avocados, yogurt, bone broth, or queso fresco.

 

Ask Yourself These Questions:

  • Do you have access to shade on the worksite? Can you stop working to get to shade if you need it?
  • Does the employer/crew leader encourage you to drink water?
  • Will you lose pay if you stop working to rest in the shade/drink water?
  • Will you be teased or retaliated against if you rest or stop to drink water?

All Nebraska employers are obligated to provide fresh water for their employees, equipment to protect you from pesticides, and many other rights. If you have any questions or need legal help, please contact our Statewide AccessLine or apply for services online. You can contact our Agricultural Worker Rights team directly on WhatsApp at 531-207-8919.

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