Written by Eddie Kasner, PhD, MPH Outreach Director, Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health (PNASH) Center July 10, 2022.
High temperatures this summer put agricultural workers at increased risk for heat illness, a medical condition that if left unchecked could lead to death. The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health (PNASH) Center has a heat toolkit and heat illness prevention resource page to help you navigate this issue.
What is heat illness?
Heat illness is a medical condition resulting from the body’s inability to cope with a particular heat load and includes, but is not limited to, heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, fainting, and heatstroke. Prolonged or intense exposure to hot conditions and heavy physical work even in cooler conditions can lead to your body overheating. Symptoms of heat illness may not be recognized initially and can quickly progress.
Why is it important to know about heat illness?
Heat illness is preventable but, if left unchecked, could lead to death. People who work outside, especially in the summer, are exposed to heat and can get heat illness. Heat illness can also lead to injuries. Workers are more likely to get injured if they get tired or dizzy from the heat while working. Heat exposure can also lead to heatstroke, a condition that can be fatal. What you learn here will prepare you for helping your co-workers and yourself stay safe when working in hot weather.
What’s in the HEAT Toolkit?
Heat Education & Awareness Tools (HEAT) is a set of resources and tools developed in collaboration with agricultural workers and educators, to promote workplace safety and health in agriculture. The HEAT Toolkit provides a training guide for the identification, prevention, and treatment of heat illness and is available in both English and Spanish. It includes worksite posters and interactive educational materials for workers. The facilitator’s guide and curriculum provide a comprehensive approach to heat illness prevention by addressing risk factors for agricultural workers at the individual, workplace, and community levels.
Links for all HEAT materials are available for free digital (pdf) download. The same materials are also available in print and can be purchased in bulk through the PNASH print and ship storefront. Employers, trainers, and educators can print one FREE HEAT Toolkit (value of $35) with promo code. Please email email@example.com or call (206) 616-1958 to request a promo code.
This summer, there is a coordinated campaign to bring awareness to heat illness and wildfire smoke exposure by promoting best practices for agricultural employers, supervisors, and workers in English and Spanish. Use #BeHeatSmart and #BeSmokeReady to follow along on social media.
WSU Extension Regional Specialist
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