How to Keep Safe From Sun and Heat

Sun and Heat Safety Tips for Farm Families and Employees

Ag workers and families should be aware of the increased health risk from the sun's rays and heat this time of year and take steps to protect themselves. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The Memorial Day long weekend included warmer-than-usual weather and it seemed appropriate that May 27 was National Sunscreen Day to remind people to be cautious and protect themselves from the sun; coming up May 31 is National Heat Safety Awareness Day.

Now is a good time to review sun safety as farmers, ranchers and their workers are outside more in hotter conditions, kids are out of the classrooms and enjoying the outdoors, and people may also be thinking more of their summer vacations with their families.

Temperatures are expected to be near or above normal in most places in the United States this week and in the expanded outlook for the next six to 10 days, according to DTN's weather forecast. Temperatures are also expected to be above normal for the Canadian Prairies, especially toward the end of the week.


The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center (UMASH) is encouraging people to remember the 5 S's for sun safety: SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, SLIDE on sunglasses, and SEEK shade.

When using sunscreen, the Center said people should use mineral-based, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB of SPF 30-50; use 1 tablespoon of sunscreen per large body part; and reapply every 2 hours, even more frequently with sweat and swimming.

The Center discouraged people from using spray sunscreens, and said don't skip sunscreen on cloudy days. Also, don't use sunscreen as standalone protection.


As for the heat awareness day, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Weather Service are encouraging employers and workers to watch for and recognize the warnings signs for heat illness. Be prepared and keep workers safe. "Outdoor workers are at risk of serious heat-induced conditions like heat exhaustion, dehydration, heatstroke and even death," they warn.

"Those working in agriculture are at a higher risk for skin cancer and heat-related illness because of time spent in the sun. As temperatures rise, it's important to remember to take steps to protect yourself and workers from the dangers of sun and heat exposure," stated UMASH.

UMASH has created some Farm Safety Checklists to help prevent heat-related illness and harmful sun exposure while working outside.


The Sun Safety one can be accessed at:….

The questions on the downloadable checklist include the following, and has space for employers and workers to check off the answers and include extra notes:

-- Are you wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants when exposed to the sun?

-- Are your hats wide-brimmed and brimmed all the way around the head, like a bucket hat?

-- Have you checked your medications for increased sun risks?

-- Are you using a broad-spectrum SPF 30-50 sunscreen lotion?

-- Are you reapplying sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently with heavy sweating?

-- Are you wearing sunglasses to protect the eyes?

-- Are checking your skin periodically and talking to your doctor about any changes you see?

-- Are employees trained how to protect themselves from the sun?

-- Are you scheduling work that happens in direct sunlight to avoid peak hours?

There is also a list of additional resources, such as from the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health helping to identify skin cancer (…), how better to prevent skin cancer by the American Cancer Society (…) and others.

Ohio State University Extension (…) highlights that people should limit sun exposure and take greater precautions if you:

-- Have a history of skin cancer

-- Have a lot of freckles of moles

-- Burn easily or have a flair complexion

-- Have blonde or red hair

-- Have blue, green or gray eyes.

Some of the suggestions from Ohio State to minimize skin damage or cancer include:

-- Schedule outdoor work in the early morning or late afternoon. Stay shaded and avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun is hottest.

-- Add a shade canopy to the driver's seat when operating a mower or other unprotected vehicle.

-- Put up a collapsible tent if working outside in one location for an extended period of time.

-- Perform equipment repairs and maintenance in an indoor workshop rather than outside, if possible.

-- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more while working outside. Reapply every two hours or more, if needed.

-- Wear a wide-brimmed hat or cap with a flap. Baseball caps do not protect the ears, temples or neck.

-- Wear sunglasses that wrap around the head to block as many rays as possible.

-- Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves, long pants, socks and gloves.


UMASH noted that the symptoms of heat-related illness can look similar to COVID-19 and other illnesses.

"These symptoms include but are not limited to fever, headache, nausea, and fatigue. Keeping workers safe should always be your No. 1 priority. During COVID-19, it's especially important that workers do not get a heat-related illness, since this can make it harder to know whether someone has COVID-19."

The following is UMASH's Safety Checklist to prepare and prevent heat-related illness:

-- Do workers who have preexisting conditions, are older than 65, are pregnant, or who had COVID-19 given more breaks in the shade and with food and cool fluids available?

-- Are hot, physically demanding jobs scheduled early in the day with more people scheduled to do these jobs, to reduce the load on each person?

-- Have all workers been trained to prevent, recognize and treat heat-related illness in themselves and others?

-- Does each worker have their own water bottle? Is it washed daily?

-- Is the location where workers get water disinfected and cleaned after each use?

-- Can workers explain their location if they need to seek medical attention?

-- Do workers begin each shift by drinking plenty of fluids, including electrolyte-containing sports drinks?

-- Are workers given more breaks to rest and hydrate as the temperature rises?

-- Do workers end each shift resting and drinking plenty of cold fluids to ensure their bodies cool down? Heat stress can become magnified over consecutive days.

-- Does each worker know (1) how and (2) which medical provider to call in case of an emergency? Does the provider speak the workers' language(s)?

-- Are workers being acclimatized? In other words, are workers gradually increasing their exposure time in hot environmental conditions over a 7- to 14-day period?

The checklist can be downloaded at… and again, has space to check off the answers and add extra notes, and includes a list of additional resources such as videos (in English and Spanish) and other tips on how to avoid heat illness.

OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) even have a health safety tool app and explains it "is a useful resource for planning outdoor work activities based on how hot it feels throughout the day. It has a real-time heat index and hourly forecasts specific to your location. It also provides occupational safety and health recommendations from OSHA and NIOSH. It can identify the current heat index at your location, as well as provide signs and symptoms for heat-related illnesses. See more at….