Editor's note: The following article was published in the August issue of the California Dairy newsletter, available for download here.
In 1977, a tropical storm that combined heat with high humidity hit southern California killing hundreds of dairy cows. The combination of high temperature and high humidity can be deadly to cattle, but it can also be deadly to humans.
For this reason, you need to remind your employees (at least once a year) about the dangers of on-the-job heat risks.
You have probably seen Heat Index (heat – relative humidity) charts that show the areas of Caution, Extreme Caution, Danger and Extreme Danger.
I want to remind you that conditions as low as 85 degrees with 60 percent relative humidity require extreme caution.
The important things to remember when it’s hot outside are drink lots of water, take breaks every 15 minutes, and seek shade often. If you start to experience muscle cramps or start to feel light headed or nausea or profuse sweating, don’t ignore these warning signs.
You are experiencing heat exhaustion and the next stage, heat stroke, can be fatal or cause permanent disability. The signs of heat stroke are vomiting, high body temperature, confusion, and hallucination. If someone is experiencing these, call 911 immediately.
First aid for both heat exhaustion and heat stroke should be provided immediately upon recognizing the signs.
The affected person should be moved to a cool, shady area or to an air conditioned building or vehicle, if possible. Taking a cool bath or shower can provide some relief.
If you can’t get the person to a tub or shower, then sprinkling their clothes with water can also be helpful.
It is also recommended that the person starts SLOWLY drinking cold water.
In 2005, California was the first state in the nation to adopt heat illness regulations. The regulation was strengthened in 2010 to include high heat provisions for five industries including agriculture. So, being aware of heat illness is not only wise it is the law.