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State of California Department of Pesticide Regulation - page 42 / 104





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eat stress is the illness that occurs when the body builds up more heat than it can deal with. Heat stress is not caused by exposure to pesticides, but may affect pesticide handlers who are working in hot conditions. Wearing personal protective equipment—clothing and devices that protect the body from contact with pesticides—can increase the risk of heat stress by limiting the body’s ability to cool down. H

Avoid Heat Stress

Several factors work together to cause heat stress. Before beginning a pesticide- handling task, think about whether any of these factors are likely to be a problem. Consider making adjustments in the task itself or in the workplace conditions, including:

  • heat factors—temperature, humidity, air movement, and sunlight

  • workload—the amount of effort a task requires

  • personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • drinking water intake

  • scheduling

Heat and Workload

High temperatures, high humidity, and sunlight increase the likelihood of heat stress. Air movement, from wind or from fans, may provide cooling. Because hard work causes the body to produce heat, a person is more likely to develop heat stress when working on foot than when driving a vehicle. Lifting or carrying heavy containers or equipment also increases the likelihood of becoming overheated.

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stress

Heat stress, even in mild forms, makes people feel ill and impairs their ability to do a good job. They may get tired quickly, feel weak, be less alert, and be less able to use good judgment. Severe heat stress (heat stroke) is a serious illness. Unless victims are cooled quickly, they can die. Severe heat stress is fatal to more than 10 percent of its victims, even young, healthy adults. Victims may remain sensitive to heat for months and be unable to return to the same work.

Learn the signs and symptoms of heat stress and take immediate action to cool down if they appear. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • fatigue (exhaustion, muscle weakness)

  • headache, nausea, and chills

  • dizziness and fainting

  • loss of coordination

  • severe thirst and dry mouth

  • altered behavior (confusion, slurred speech, quarrelsome or irrational


Heat cramps can be painful. These are muscle spasms in the legs, arms, or stomach caused by loss of body salts through heavy sweating. To relieve cramps, drink cool water. Stretching or kneading the muscles may temporarily relieve the

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