Rural Health & Safety
The California Farm Bureau's Rural Health and Safety Department provides guidance on health and safety issues affecting California's agricultural businesses, producers, families and employees.
Heat illness prevention
The well-being of our workforce is a priority for all California farmers. Heat illness is a health and safety issue that farmers and ranchers have been concerned about for many years. Farmers recognize the potential risks of heat exposure, just as employers do in construction, manufacturing and other industries where heat is an issue. We take the necessary steps to protect our employees, not only from heat illness but from other potential health and safety hazards as well.
Here are some basic tips for heat illness prevention:
- Drink small amounts of water frequently
- Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink
- Take advantage of shade-and-rest breaks
- Start work earlier in the day, to avoid the afternoon heat
- Know how to recognize the symptoms of heat illness, such as poor concentration, cramping, fatigue, blurry vision, headache, dizziness, nausea, etc.
- If you notice heat illness symptoms in yourself or a co-worker, have the victim stop working, find shade, loosen clothing, get fluids, and fan the body with any item available
- Serious fluid loss can lead to heat stroke, which is an emergency - if this happens, seek medical help right away
Heat Stress Brochure (PDF, 1.8 MB)
Public Service Announcements
This PSA airs on popular Spanish-language radio stations statewide during the summer. Please feel free to use at your discretion for heat illness prevention and training.
Protect Employees From Heat Stress
- Water: Provide a quart of pure, cool water per employee per hour. Farm Employers Labor Service (FELS) decals can be placed on coolers reminding employees to drink water, rest in the shade, know emergency procedures, wear proper clothing, and watch for heat illness symptoms. Remember to provide single-use cups and to encourage employees to drink water frequently.
- Shade: Provide enough shade for at least 25% of the employees in the field. If the temperature exceeds 85°F, be sure shade is deployed at all times. Otherwise, make shade readily available to employees upon request. If you're using artificial shade (pop-ups, tents) on an area other than a lawn, provide a ground cover or something to sit on.
Note: Shade and water must be as close as practicable to employees. In no event may shade be more than 1/4 mile from employees and ideally should be no more than 1/8 mile from employees. Water needs to be much closer so employees may access it frequently.
- Training: Make sure supervisors and employees are trained to understand heat stress, how to prevent it, what to do if someone becomes sick, and how to summon help.
- Compliance Procedures: Be ready for Cal/OSHA enforcement by having your heat illness prevention plan available in the field for inspectors to examine.
- Acclimatization: Closely monitor employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness until they have become accustomed to the high heat, which might take several days.
Heat Safety Resources
- Commentary: Comprehensive efforts show commitment to heat safety (May 23, 2012)
- Ag Alert: Safety regulators say farms will be 'a major focus' (March 7, 2012)
- Ag Alert: Employers aim for full compliance with heat safety rules (April 6, 2011)
- Ag Alert: More farmers use services of Cal/OSHA Consultation (November 3, 2010 )
- Ag Alert: Farmers take precautions to protect workers from heat (August 20, 2008)
- Ag Alert: Cal/OSHA chief clarifies requirements of heat standard (August 20, 2008)
- Ag Alert: Farmers need extra protection in the sun (May 21, 2008)
- California Division of Occupational Safety and Health
- University of California, Agricultural and Resource Economics
- State Fund: Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
- State Fund: Safe Practices for Workers in Hot Environments
- Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- National Agricultural Safety Database: Outdoor Action Guide to Heat-Related Illnesses & Fluid Balance
- National Safety Council
Farm Employers Labor Service (FELS) subscribers have access to heat illness information and other safety sheets on line. For more information on a FELS subscription, go to www.fels.org or call (800) 753-9073.
For more information contact the Health and Safety Department at (916) 561-5590.Top