|NOIRA on Heat Illness Prevention
|Ended on 6/9/2021
I have lived and worked in Virginia for over 45 years, and during the summer the weather is hot, humid, and stressful to work in if you are outside. It seems as though the summers are getting hotter with more days in the 90-100 degree range. Anyone who lives in Virginia is certainly aware of this, and most grateful for the times they can enjoy air conditioning. Unfortunately, those who work outside typically don't have that luxury, but there need to be protections in place to protect their health and safety through the development of standard heat stress protections. I have observed this need first-hand.
In the past, I have helped chaperone groups of teenagers on mission events that involved gleaning. The goal of these events was to collect food left behind in the fields that was missed by harvesters on the first go around. That food would then be donated to food banks and community kitchens to feel the hungry and homeless. After an hour or so, the young folks and even the adults would begin to really feel the hot Virginia sun as the day developed. We encouraged them to remain hydrated and provided water, but we could rarely push these healthy young folks more than a couple of hours once the sun began to climb higher in the sky. They would begin to feel faint and feel the effects of the heat strongly enough that we would pull them out of the fields and into the shade or air-conditioning by noontime. This even included the young athletes who were used to morning, summertime practices. If I had pushed them to continue working even after a brief respite, I fear we would have had more serious health issues. Fortunately, their livelihoods did not depend on how much food they harvested or how much work they had to do in the heat to get a living wage.
So many jobs, but particularly those involving agriculture and farm labor, rely on workers putting in a full day in the fields. Heat stress protections are simply humane and important to the continued smooth functioning of of the business of agriculture. Others may be able to offer information about how to do this effectively, but I simply urge the reader or hearer of my words to examine their conscience, remember what Virginia summers are like, and find ways to protect essential workers' health from extreme heat by putting in place reasonable safeguards from heat stress and the conditions it produces. Ultimately this will benefit the businesses that use these workers by ensuring that the work will be done efficiently and in a humane manner, leading to increased productivity. Please find a way to develop and enforce heat stress protection guidelines for workers.