Work outside? Take heat seriously

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Those who work outdoors need to take heat safety seriously, said Lisa Washburn, assistant professor-health for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, heat was blamed for the deaths of 423 workers between 1992-2006,” she said. “Of that total nearly a quarter of those deaths were to those who worked in farming, forestry, fishing or hunting.”
The NIOSH study also found that 68 crop workers died from heat stroke. That rate is nearly 20 times the rate for all U.S. civilians, she said.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor stated that 2 of every 1,000 workers are at risk for
heat stress and that some occupations—such as logging, firefighting, agriculture, and construction—are at a greater-than-average risk.

According to NOAA, heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer in the U.S., taking more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes combined. During the heat wave of 1980, 1,250 people died and 15 years later, another heat wave claimed more than 700 lives. (See NOAA’s heat hazard’s page at Between 1999 and 2003, there were more than 3,400 heat-related deaths nationwide.

If you have to be in the heat, Washburn recommends:

  • Drinking more fluids, regardless of activity level. Don't wait to feel thirsty to drink. Don't drink liquids containing caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar because they can cause more fluid loss. Avoid very cold drinks. They can cause stomach cramps. Those on fluid-restricted diets or who take water pills should ask their doctor how much fluid to drink when it's hot.
  • Rest often in a shady area.
  • Wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; a wide-brimmed hat; sunglasses; and sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher.
  • Retreat to an air conditioned office or vehicle if no shade or other cool area is available.
  • Pay attention to symptoms such as rash, paleness, weakness, dizziness, cramps and nausea. These could indicate heat rash, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Pay attention to heat advisories and heat indices.

The National Weather Service issues excessive heat outlooks, watches and warnings to help people prepare or take appropriate action to prevent heat-related illnesses or death.

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