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Summer farm safety tips

As temperatures soar and school lets out for the season, be sure you and your loved ones are prepared to stay safe.

Before you start to tackle your summer to-do list, take steps to keep the kids on your farm safe, review the signs and dangers of heat illness, and know how to protect yourself from the sun.

Farm Kid Safety

While children look forward to being home on the farm for the summer, now is an important time to have conversations about safety, both with youngsters and farm employees.

Remind your children where it is safe to play outside. You may consider installing a fence or other boundaries to separate them from the farm work site. Make sure they know what areas are off-limits without an adult’s supervision.

Playing around machinery or livestock can be extremely dangerous. Teach them to look out for moving trucks or tractors that might not be able to see them easily. Confined spaces and are never a good place for games like hide-and-seek.

Let farm employees know if your children will be around more often this summer. They should know to never give young children rides, including in the beds and buckets of equipment. Everyone who operates machinery on the farm should be especially careful when backing up. Double-check your surroundings and slow down when passing through the farm yard.

Before the kids are home from school, take a few hours to double-check that hazardous chemicals are stored safely and not accessible to children. Make sure all keys are removed from vehicles and machinery when it is not in use.

Heat Illness

Working outside is a daily reality for many who make their livelihood farming or ranching. In the summer that can mean long hours in hot, humid conditions. Know the signs of heat illness and ways to prevent it to make sure you can be productive this summer.

“Heat illness occurs when the body can no longer cope and the body’s physical and mental functions break down,” explains the Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.

The National Ag Safety Database (NASD) says your ability to sweat declines with age, so people over 40 should take extra precautions when it is hot. In humid conditions, perspiration can’t evaporate as readily to cool you off.

Staying hydrated is one of the most important ways to reduce the risk of heat illness. “The rate of water intake must equal the increased rate of water loss by perspiration to keep body temperature normal,” explains one NASD resource.

Hard work in hot conditions can result in a range of heat illnesses. Take breaks to hydrate and cool off. Don’t push yourself if you feel ill. You could put yourself or coworkers at a higher risk of having an accident or deadly heat stroke.

Keep an eye on coworkers. If someone is weak, confused, or behaving strangely, they may be suffering from heat stroke.

“Symptoms include heavy sweating, cool, moist skin, body temperature over 100.4°F., weak pulse, and normal or low blood pressure. The victim is likely to be tired, weak, clumsy, upset, or confused. They will be very thirsty, and will pant or breath rapidly. Their vision may be blurred,” a NASD resource says.

You should call for help immediately. Heat stroke can be deadly. Once help is on the way you can move the person to a cool area and offer them cool, lightly-salted water. Loosen or remove excess clothing, fan, and gently spray the victim with cool water.

Sun Damage

It can be tempting to wear less protective clothing or work on your tan in the summer, but in addition to the risk of sunburn, consequences can be long term. Chronic sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. While fair skinned people may have a greater risk, people with darker hair and skin can also be in danger.

Wear light-color clothing and waterproof sunscreen rated SPF 15 or greater to reduce your risk of skin damage. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your ears and neck. Your face and scalp are the most prone to burn. Skin cancer is also common on the hands and forearms.

The National Ag Safety Database says solar radiation is the greatest between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., so if possible, schedule your outside work for early morning or evening. If you must be outside in that time frame, make sure you regularly reapply sun protection.

If you have moles that change in size, shape, or color, consult your doctor. Irregularly shaped and colored moles could indicate a problem. Sores that bleed and don’t heal or red patches or lumps could also be signs of skin cancer.

The sun can damage your eyes after prolonged exposure too. Wear sunglasses that filter out at least 90% of ultraviolet rays to protect yourself.

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