Each year at least one farmworker in North Carolina dies of heat stress. These deaths are preventable.
When you are working in the hot sun, you can quickly become dehydrated if you do not frequently drink water. We sweat when it is hot because this is the way our bodies maintain the proper temperature. If we do not replenish the water we lose through sweat we become dehydrated. This is called heat stress.
You generally need to drink at least 2 gallons of water a day when you are working hard. If it is very hot and humid, you need to drink more in order not to become dehydrated. If you are dehydrated, you can quickly become overheated. When your body loses it’s ability to cool down, you can have a heat stroke. Heat strokes can inflict severe damage your essential organs and cause your death.
If a co-worker appears to be suffering from heat stress or heat stroke — if he is disoriented or incoherent, if he is tired and weak, if he has stopped sweating, or if he has passed out — do not wait! Do not leave the victim unattended!
Provide first aid right away and insist that the employer take the worker to a hospital emergency room immediately!
First aid for heat stress or heat stroke victims:
- Move the victim to a cool place out of the sun;
- Get the victim to drink cool water if he is still conscious;
- Put ice or cold packs on places on his body where the arteries are close to the surface — the armpits, groin, neck; and
- Cool the victim down by wetting his clothing with water and using any available material to move the airflow to create the effect of a fan;
- Continue this first aid as the victim is transported to medical attention.
Your intervention may save your co-worker’s life.