Nav: Home

More Washington state agricultural workers injured in hot weather

October 07, 2016

Warmer weather is related to an increase in traumatic injuries for outdoor agricultural workers in central and eastern Washington.

These findings, which appear Oct. 7 in PLOS ONE, come from a study by researchers at the University of Washington and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries' Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) program.

The study is the first to estimate the risk of traumatic injury in farm workers using temperature data linked to the geographic location of the injury.

The researchers reported on more than 12,200 traumatic injury workers' compensation claims filed by agricultural workers from 2000 to 2012.

"Taken together with prior research in this area, our results suggest that we need to be proactive when it's warm outside, particularly when work is physically demanding, in order to prevent heat-related injuries as well as heat-related illness," said June Spector, lead author of the study and assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences in the University of Washington School of Public Health.

Internal body heat generated from physical exertion contributes to overall heat stress. One of the most well documented health effects of hot weather is heat-related illness. This can range from heat rash to heat stroke, which can be fatal.

"This study reinforces the importance of prevention," said David Bonauto, co-author of the study and research director of SHARP. "Employers need to provide plenty of fresh drinking water, start work as early in the day as possible, and encourage workers to take breaks and pace themselves."

In the case-crossover study, researchers identified the temperature and humidity at the approximate location of the injury on the injury day. To understand how heat may have been a factor in the injury, the researchers compared the heat and humidity on the injury day with days when there was no new injury for that individual working at the same work location.

The connection between heat and injury was not surprising to the researchers. With heat exposure, dehydration, and fatigue, a person can become less stable on their feet and have more difficulty concentrating. The exact mechanisms responsible for the increased risk observed need further study, Spector said.

The average daily maximum temperature between May and September during the twelve-year period studied was 82.2 degrees Fahrenheit, with temperatures at times exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Add humidity and the weather can feel even hotter. Exertion also influences heat stress placed on the body. A cherry harvester, for example, has a physically demanding job that requires carrying and climbing ladders with bags of fruit. Being paid for work by the amount harvested can make the job more intense. This piece rate scheme can provide an opportunity for increased pay but also encourages workers to work harder and faster.

"Our findings underscore the importance of working together with workers and growers to identify and evaluate practical strategies that address the increased risk of injury that outdoor agricultural workers face in the heat," she said.

Washington state has workplace safety standards--in effect from May to September-- that address outdoor heat in agriculture. Legislation was recently passed to require paid rest breaks.

Financial support for the study was provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
-end-


University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Related Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Generous health insurance plans encourage overtreatment, but may not improve health
Offering comprehensive health insurance plans with low deductibles and co-pay in exchange for higher annual premiums seems like a good value for the risk averse, and a profitable product for insurance companies.
The Lancet Planetary Health: Food, climate, greenhouse gas emissions and health
Increasing temperatures, water scarcity, availability of agricultural land, biodiversity loss and climate change threaten to reverse health gains seen over the last century.
With health insurance at risk, community health centers face cut-backs
Repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, combined with a failure to renew critical funding streams, would result in catastrophic funding losses for community health centers-forcing these safety net providers to cut back on services, lay off staff or shut down clinical sites, according to a report published today.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Tailored preventive oral health intervention improves dental health among elderly
A tailored preventive oral health intervention significantly improved the cleanliness of teeth and dentures among elderly home care clients.
Study finds that people are attracted to outward signs of health, not actual health
Findings published in the journal Behavioral Ecology reveal that skin with yellow and red pigments is perceived as more attractive in Caucasian males, but this skin coloring does not necessarily signal actual good health.
In the January Health Affairs: Brazil's primary health care expansion
The January issue of Health Affairs includes a study that explores a much-discussed issue in global health: the role of governance in improving health, which is widely recognized as necessary but is difficult to tie to actual outcomes.
University of Rochester and West Health Collaborate on d.health Summit 2017
In collaboration with West Health, the University of Rochester is hosting the third annual d.health Summit, a forum for health care and technology leaders, entrepreneurs, senior care advocates and policymakers to exchange ideas, create new partnerships, and foster disruptive technological and process innovations to improve the lives of the nation's aging population.
Study links health literacy to higher levels of health insurance coverage
The federal Affordable Care Act is intended to make it easier for individuals to buy health insurance, but are the uninsured equipped to navigate the choices faced in the insurance marketplace?

Related Health Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Right To Speak
Should all speech, even the most offensive, be allowed on college campuses? And is hearing from those we deeply disagree with ... worth it? This hour, TED speakers explore the debate over free speech. Guests include recent college graduate Zachary Wood, political scientist Jeffrey Howard, novelist Elif Shafak, and journalist and author James Kirchick.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#486 Volcanoes
This week we're talking volcanoes. Because there are few things that fascinate us more than the amazing, unstoppable power of an erupting volcano. First, Jessica Johnson takes us through the latest activity from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii to help us understand what's happening with this headline-grabbing volcano. And Janine Krippner joins us to highlight some of the lesser-known volcanoes that can be found in the USA, the different kinds of eruptions we might one day see at them, and how damaging they have the potential to be. Related links: Kilauea status report at USGS A beginner's guide to Hawaii's otherworldly...