Know Limits When Working Outdoors In The Summer

When there is work to be done there is work to be done. The tasks that farmers and ranchers are faced with are pressing, time-sensitive, and rarely can be done from inside a climate-controlled room. Add in unpredictable weather and already challenging tasks can become difficult, not to mention unpleasant. Help beat the heat with these summer safety reminders.

Water. Rest. Shade.

Prevention is the key to reducing heat-related illnesses. While it is not always possible to avoid working during the period of most intense heat during the day, there are steps that can be taken to make it more bearable. Ensure an adequate supply of drinking water – this includes water for horses, working dogs, and livestock. If trailing livestock is unavoidable on the hottest days, plan your route to include plenty of stops to water both the crew and critters.

Consider an electrolyte drink, particularly during periods of prolonged sweating. Avoid drinks with high sugar or caffeine content. Plan on drinking about one cup water every 15 minutes but listen to your body and adjust accordingly; just remember to drink before you are thirsty!

Wear loose-fitting light-colored clothing, a hat (wide-brimmed with a neck shield is ideal), sunscreen, and sunglasses. Check the weather frequently as conditions can quickly become extreme. It is important to remember that temperature alone is not a good indicator of potential heat hazards. Humidity plays a major role. The Heat Index provides a more complete picture of environmental heat than the temperature alone. Download the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool App to help crews monitor the heat index throughout the day – learn more about this helpful tool at

Rest often; frequent, short breaks in a cool place are crucial to preventing heat-related illness. Remove protective clothing during these rest periods to allow for greater cooling. Seek natural areas of shade or consider creating areas of shade where none exist.  Know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness and take corrective action quickly. Heat-related illnesses include heat rash, fainting, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat stroke can be fatal if not treated – seek medical attention if you notice sudden onset of nausea, extremely elevated body temperature, confusion or anger, throbbing headache, rapid pulse, slurred speech, or loss of consciousness. According to the CDC, ag workers are 20 times more likely to die of heat-related illnesses than the rest of the U.S. workforce. Adjust work as possible and set realistic pace expectations, no task is more important than your life.

With temperatures expected to soar across the state in the coming weeks, it’s imperative to know the signs of heat-related illness, cover up when outside and take frequent breaks. If you follow the guidelines, you’ll be more likely to have a safe, healthy summer.

For more information regarding the Montana Ag Safety Program or task-specific safety visit or contact Dana Jansen at [email protected] or 406-850-9978.


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