By Bruce Buttar
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Summer on the farm is exciting and busy. The days are longer, the weather is warmer and it’s a privilege to watch our crops and animals growing throughout the summer months. But farm work can be risky and unpredictable at times, especially when we’re working outside in the elements.
Heat stress, extended sun exposure and longer working hours are risks farmers and farm workers often face during the summer as a result of Ontario’s climate and our short growing season. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) reminds our members, their farm families and employees to stay safe and take precautions this summer to prevent heat stress and exhaustion.
OFA recently expanded its relationship with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS) to a formal partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). We’re happy to offer OFA members farm safety and prevention resources to help keep everyone safe and healthy. WSPS has released key tips to prevent heat stress for agricultural workers and anyone else who works outside.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility on a farm. OFA reminds Ontario farmers to work safely and watch out for each other. Prevention is key and there are plenty of ways to reduce the strain of working in hot weather. Wear appropriate clothing like loose fitting cotton and moisture wicking fabrics. Stay hydrated yourself and have plenty of water available for everyone. Proper employee training and supervision can go a long way to prevent heat stress and hot weather related injuries or illnesses. Everyone should know the signs of heat stress and what to do if someone experiences distress.
Any job that causes your body temperature to rise has the potential to cause heat stress, but there are ways to keep workers safe, no matter where you work. Heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heart attack and other physical health effects. Heat stress can also impact business on a farm when jobs are often tied to weather or available labour.
Knowing the symptoms of heat stress is just as important as prevention. If you or someone you’re working with show signs of fatigue, light headedness, dizziness, blurred vision, difficulty focusing or excessive sweating, take action immediately by removing yourself or your co-worker to a cooler location and drink plenty of water.
To all our farming members, take care this summer and stay safe. We’ve already experienced some hot weather and it’s a good reminder of what summers on the farm in Ontario are like. Stay safe this summer.
For more information on heat stress or other farm safety resources visit ofa.on.ca.