Great measures are taken to keep dairy cows comfortable during the summertime heat, but it is just as important to make sure the people working on the farm are cool too.

Coffeen peggy
Coffeen is a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers exposed to hot weather and direct sun are subject to illnesses such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke – which can be fatal.

Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of injuries because of sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness and burns from hot surfaces or steam.

Working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15ºF. Keep this in mind and plan additional precautions for working
in these conditions.

Heat-related illness: Know the signs

It’s important to know the signs of heat-related illness; acting quickly can prevent more serious medical conditions and may even save lives.

  • Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. Call 911 if a co-worker shows signs of heat stroke.

  • Heat exhaustion is also a serious illness. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating. Heat fatigue and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of too much heat exposure.

If you or a co-worker has symptoms of heat-related illness, tell your supervisor right away. If you can, move the person to a shaded area, loosen their clothing, give them water (a little at a time) and cool them down with ice packs or cool water.

To prevent heat illness: Water. Rest. Shade.

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.

  • Rest in the shade to cool down.

  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.

  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.

  • Keep an eye on fellow workers.

  • Acclimate – “Easy does it” on your first days of work; be sure to get used to the heat and allow yourself to build up a tolerance. Not being used to the heat is a big problem.

    Many of the people who died from heat stress were either new to working in the heat or returning from a break. If a worker has not worked in hot weather for a week or more, their body needs time to adjust.

Download the OSHA Heat Tool app

OSHA’s Heat Tool app allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers.

Then, with a simple “click,” you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness, including reminders about drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.

Download the free app here: United States Department of Labor: Heat Safety Tool  PD

Source: U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration

PHOTO: Staff photo

Peggy Coffeen