Monday, June 20, 2016

Keeping Cool Essential in a HOT, HOT San Joaquin Valley

Hot, hot, hot, hot…

That’s the weather forecast this entire week in the scorching San Joaquin Valley. Tripled-digit temperatures are on tap over the next nine days with little relief in sight. What a way to mark the first week of summer.

Now that’s tough for farm workers and others that spend their day outdoors. 

Workers will need to be careful about heat illness this week.
“You want to protect yourself,’’ says field scout Carlos Silva, who spending his days scouting cotton and alfalfa fields. During these hot times, Carlos makes sure he loads up with plenty of water for the road, brings a hat and wears a long-sleeve shirt before heading out early in the morning.

“I’ve seen workers wearing sweaters in the field,” Carlos says.  

For almond field scout Jenna Mayfield, the thick orchard canopy serves as a natural sun shade during his rounds.  But Jenna has to cope with the humidity trapped under the orchard canopy.She gets out early and finishes early in the afternoon to avoid the peak high temperatures.

It’s important for farmers and their workers to prevent heat illness.  

Grower Joe Del Bosque has been an advocate for grower safety.  For years, he has been heavily involved with AgSafe, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing injuries and illnesses to farm workers. 

 “We should value our farm workers more. It’s very important to me being able to work in a fair and safe environment,” he says.

Here are some heat safety from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Carle Center for Rural Health and Farm Safety:
  • Acclimate to heat slowly over 5 to 7 days. For new workers, increase the amount of time in the heat by 20% per day. If you’re already used to hot conditions, you can increase your exposure more quickly, but if you’re away from the heat for 4 days or more, you’ll need to build up your tolerance again.
  • Drink lots of water before, during and after work. OSHA recommends 4 cups of water per hour. Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and avoid sweetened or caffeinated beverages.
  • Adjust the timing of certain activities, if possible. Cut back exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid confined spaces during the hottest hours. Consider putting hay in the barn the morning after it’s been baled, or later in the evening when temperatures cool off.
  • Take breaks in the shade or a cool environment. Taking 5-minute breathers as needed not only cuts down on heat stress, but also makes everyone more productive. Use machinery with cabs or shades, but don’t skip breaks – farm equipment generates a lot of heat, too. Set up simple tents in fields and other unsheltered areas to create needed shade. 
Taking these precautions will help everyone survive the heat. “You don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere and pass out,” Carlos says.

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