It may surprise you to know that heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the United States. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has noted that excessive heat claims more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined.
Much of the Midwest is suffering through a heat wave this week, with daytime highs soaring well into the 90s. With that in mind, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging those who work outside – including farmers and farm workers – to put safety first in these weather conditions.
Each year, thousands of outdoor workers experience heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These illnesses can become deadly if not properly addressed.
"Heat and humidity are a serious safety threat to workers during the summer – from utility workers, to agriculture, construction, firefighters, roadway workers and more," says ASSE President Terrie S. Norris, CSP, ARM, of Long Beach, Calif. "People should heed the heat warnings and act quickly when they begin to feel any heat-related symptoms."
ASSE lists the following red flags that can trigger heat illnesses: high temperatures, being in direct sun or heat, limited air movement, physical exertion, poor physical condition, some medicines, bulky protective clothing and inadequate tolerance for hot workplaces. Symptoms of heat stroke include dry, hot skin with no sweating; mental confusion or losing consciousness; and seizures or convulsions.
To prevent stress, monitor co-workers and yourself regularly. Block out direct sun or other heat sources when possible. Use cooling fans or air conditioning, and take regular rest breaks. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes, and drink lots of water.
Here are some additional heat safety resources: