With Florida’s harvest season beginning this month, on Friday, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) launched a heat illness prevention campaign to bring awareness to the devastating effects of heat illnesses and how to prevent them.
Each year, more than 600 Americans die from hyperthermia, one of the nation’s deadliest weather-related health outcomes. Agriculture workers die from heat-related illnesses at a rate 20 times greater than the general U.S. workforce. When the body cannot properly cool itself, victims can become susceptible to dangerous, life-threatening heat-related ailments including heat cramps and rashes, heat exhaustion, and heat strokes.
“Farmworkers are among the nation’s most at risk of heat-related illnesses. As essential workers and members of our communities, their health and safety are crucial,” said Fried. “We are proud to launch this heat illness prevention campaign to help protect our farmworkers, whose labors feed our families, neighbors, and the world. By knowing the signs and taking precautions, we can keep everyone safe on farms and fields.”
“Florida’s farmworkers are the backbone of our state’s agriculture industry, with their work fueling our biggest economic driver and feeding millions of Americans. As frontline workers, it is critical that farmworkers are protected from and trained on the devastating health effects of heat-related illnesses,” said Antonio Tovar, the executive director of the Florida Association of Farmworkers. “We applaud Commissioner Fried for launching this heat illness prevention campaign to raise awareness on this issue and for her commitment to protecting Florida farmworkers.”
The bilingual awareness campaign features shareable graphics and materials with tips in English and Spanish on how to identify and prevent heat illnesses. The campaign will feature videos and will also launch radio PSAs in the coming weeks. This week, Fried and FDACS will launch a nine-part video series for farmworkers on staying safe from COVID-19.
FDACS is asking Florida farmworkers to follow these best practices to prevent heat illnesses:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water or fluids with electrolytes – don’t wait until you’re thirsty, hydrate consistently while working.
- Choose work attire wisely: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing, and protect your face by wearing a hat and sunglasses.
- Wear sunscreen: Sunburns make it harder to cool down and can cause dehydration, so apply sunscreen rated SPF 15 or higher.
- Use a buddy system: Heat illness can cause confusion and even loss of consciousness, so work near a buddy to check on each other and stay safe.
- Rest and cool down: Make sure to rest and cool down during the workday, by taking breaks in a shady or cool area.
- Stay alert, know the signs: Stay alert for signs of heat illness like headache, dizziness, fatigue or weakness, or a loss of consciousness – if suffering any of these symptoms, cool down immediately and call for medical assistance.