July 2014: Work and Heat-Related Illnesses

Summer is here and the weather is hot. This is the time of year to be concerned about heat-related illnesses. Heat-related illnesses can occur indoors as well as outdoors. Accidents are more frequent in hot weather because it can decrease mental alertness and reduce job performance. This article will help us become aware of risk factors and symptoms, and how to help others with heat-related illness.

Risk Factors for Heat Illnesses

  • High temperature and high humidity
  • Direct sun exposure (with little or no shade)
  • Limited air movement (no breeze or wind)
  • Low liquid intake, excessive sweating
  • No recent exposure to hot environments or history of previous heat-related illness
  • Children under the age of 4, adults over the age of 65, or pregnant
  • Persons with chronic diseases, obesity or frequent alcohol use

Heat-related health problems include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. Understanding signs of heat-related illness, knowing how to assist and when to call for help are important when workers are exposed to hot, humid environments.



June 2014: Farm and Home Safety

June is National Safety Month. According to the National Safety Council, agriculture is the most hazardous industry in the United States. June is the perfect time for farm families to search the home and farm for safety hazards. Emphasis must be placed on correcting safety hazards right away. Some safety hazards can’t be completely eliminated. In these cases, engaging in safety behaviors can reduce risks.

The majority of injuries and deaths on the farm involve machinery such as tractors. Using proper personal protective equipment includes use of hats/helmets, face shields, safety goggles and gloves, boots and other protective equipment can minimize injuries. You should follow all manufacturer instructions and recommendations, adhere to maintenance schedules, and avoid using equipment until repairs have been completed. Install approved guards and protective equipment such as roll over protective structures to tractors and other machinery as needed. Consider obtaining a portable document format file (PDF) of the operator’s manual for all equipment and machinery. Don’t forget the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for all chemicals kept in the home and on the farm. Save this information to a flash drive and the hard drive of your computer. Keep hard copies in a designated location. Save the nearest emergency numbers such as 911 and Poison Control number on your home and cell phones.

Children under the age of 15 and adults over the age of 65 have the greatest risk for injury. Children should be given age appropriate tasks, suitable to their mental and physical abilities. Children should not be allowed access to hazardous areas, and dangerous areas should be fenced off. The North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks (NAGCAT) is a good resource for keeping children safe on the farm.



May 2014: Mental Health and Depression

May is National Mental Health Month. Life can be stressful and sometimes we can feel “a little depressed” or “a little blue” which usually lasts a few days. On the other hand, depression is a condition that is long term and may reduce your quality of life. Now is a good time to assess our mental health for depression.

Depression often goes undiagnosed and those suffering with depression may fail to recognize the symptoms. Depression should be diagnosed by a doctor. However, there are quick evaluations available on the internet to determine if you should follow-up with a doctor based on your symptoms. Mayo Clinic offers a quick quiz and the link is attached below.

Signs and symptoms of depression may include feelings of sadness, irritability or angry outbursts, loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities, insomnia or excessive sleeping, changes in appetite, decreased ability to concentrate, remember or make decisions, loss of energy and tire easily, and unexplained physical problems such as headaches and back pain. Other symptoms may include working, playing sports, or abuse of alcohol or other substances. Additionally, some engage in excessive risk taking or uncharacteristic fits of anger, controlling, abusive or violent behaviors. Depression can also result in problems with school or work, and family conflicts.



April 2014: Agricultural Chemicals and Safe Practices

April showers are followed with a planting season. Chemicals are often used to ensure the production of food in our nation and other countries. Agricultural pesticides include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. When working around agricultural pesticides precautions must be taken to avoid injury.

Pesticides can hurt you if they get in your eyes, on your skin or if you breath or swallow them. Signs of chemical exposure include headaches, dizziness, muscles pain and cramps, feeling tired, vomiting and sweaty skin. Pesticides and other chemicals exposures may occur during contact with plants, the soil, irrigation water, or the storage areas. Additionally chemicals may drift in the air from other locations.

Material safety data sheets (MSDS) should be available for each chemical used in the agricultural setting. The MSDS sheets provide information about proper handling when working with a particular substance, how to manage spills and first aid measures. Wear clothes that cover your skin when you work where there is a good possibility of pesticide exposure. Protective clothing may include chemical-resistant work gloves, footwear and coveralls, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, socks and shoes.



March 2014: Tractor Safety

March brings out the tractor on many farms. Did you know that tractor accidents are responsible for nearly 50% of deaths and injuries among agricultural workers each year? Most accidents are avoidable with proper attention to safety.

Before operating your tractor become thoroughly familiar the content in the operators’ manual and the tractor. Learn the location and operation of each control and attachment before use. Be certain you understand how to quickly stop the tractor and the attachments. Avoid getting in a rush and consult the manual if you have questions. Re-familiarize yourself with harvesting equipment each season.

Securely attach safety equipment to the tractor. Attach equipment to the drawbar only. Use the protective shields for the power take-off at all times and replaced if damaged. Include items such as a first aid kit, fire extinguisher and a tool kit for minor repairs. Safety decals and signs should be clearly visible and replaced as needed.



February 2014: Know Your Numbers for a Healthy Heart

According to the Centers for Disease Control heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. Despite this alarming news, heart disease is controllable and preventable. There are several risk factors for heart disease and most of them can be changed. Let’s take a closer look at some major risk factors and determine goal numbers that count for a healthy heart.

High cholesterol levels increases risk for heart disease. Your goal for total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL. The HDL or “good cholesterol” should be less than 50mg/dL for women and less than 40 mg/dL for men. The LDL or “bad cholesterol” goal depends on your overall risk for heart disease and ranges from 160 mg/dL for those with lowest risk to 70 mg/dL for those with very high risk. Triglycerides, a type of fat, are also important to heart health. Triglyceride levels should be less than 150 mg/dL regardless of age or gender. See your doctor regularly to have these levels checked every 5 years beginning at age 20. Men over the age of 45 and women over 50 should have cholesterol levels checked every year.

High blood pressure causes the heart to work very hard and causes the heart muscles to thicken and to become less able to pump oxygen and nutrients to the body.  In many people, high blood pressure has no symptoms so it is necessary to have it checked at least once a year and with every healthcare visit if taking medications for blood pressure. Target blood pressure goals include readings less than 120/80 mmHg. Be sure to take your blood pressure medications as prescribed.