Weather and the environment

Author:International Labour Organization
Pages:155-161
 
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Meetings-MESHA-Final Code-2010-10-0355-1-En.doc/v2 155
17. Weather and the environment
17.1. Weather and environmental factors
17.1.1. Agricultural activity exposes workers to weather and environmental factors
as they carry out their work. Ambient air temperature, humidity, wind, dust storms,
precipitation and solar radiation are important potential hazards. While some agricultural
enterprises control such factors by using greenhouses, tunnels and conditioned caves, most
agricultural activity occurs out of doors and is subject to ambient thermal, environmental
and lighting conditions. Climate change is thought already to be affecting agriculture,
creating increasingly unstable weather conditions.
17.2. Thermal exposure
17.2.1. Hazard description
17.2.1.1. Knowledge of the thermal exposures experienced by agricultural workers
is vital for their overall safety and health. The principal hazards to workers result from
prolonged exposure to hot or cold working environments, including welfare facilities and
rest areas. Heat stress is associated with heat stroke, heat exhaustion, syncope (fainting),
heat cramps and heat rash. When associated with inclement weather, inappropriate
protective clothing, little or no opportunity for acclimatization, intense work, or
insufficient rest and recovery periods, the risks of heat stress or cold stress, hypothermia
etc. can be severe. It should be noted that fine motor control of the lower arm, hand and
fingers is also affected by excessive temperatures. Exposure to extreme temperatures can
be particularly hazardous for pregnant workers and the unborn child.
17.2.1.2. Dehydration is a major problem for agricultural workers and can be fatal.
In its initial stages, it can lead to symptoms such as below normal sweating, fainting,
confusion, dizziness, headaches, heat rashes, irritability, loss of coordination, muscle
cramps and exhaustion. However, severe dehydration can be fatal and when other
symptoms appear, such as a loss of thirst, immediate remedial action is vital.
17.2.2. Assessment of risk
17.2.2.1. If agricultural workers carry out all or some of their tasks under any
conditions listed in section 17.2.1 and the thermal hazard cannot be eliminated, employers
should carry out a risk assessment and determine the necessary controls.
17.2.2.2. In assessing the hazards and risks, employers should:
(a) take into account typical weather patterns, seasonal variations and recorded extremes
with regard to temperature, humidity, precipitation and wind;
(b) if these are not known, arrange for measurements to be performed on site by a
technically capable person, using appropriate and properly calibrated equipment;
(c) take into account work activities conducted both outdoors and indoors;
(d) seek the advice of the occupational health service, a local or regional public health
service agency, or other competent body about exposure standards to be applied to

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