Be Heat Smart

When you are focused on “getting the job done”, your health, or the health of your helpers can suffer if you aren’t careful.  This is something to be especially aware of in periods of extreme heat like we over the Memorial Day weekend.

Many of you probably check the weather in the morning before starting your day.  You are probably looking to see if there is rain in the forecast and how warm it is supposed to get for the day.  That’s a great start.  One more thing you should add to your list of weather-related items to check for the day is the heat index.  The heat index is a measure that combines relative humidity (or dew point) and air temperature to approximate what the air temperature actually “feels like”.  The heat index is also what is used to help determine when it is “safe” to haul livestock.

Relative humidity (%) is on the vertical axis, while temperature is on the horizontal axis. Plotted together, these two variables show heat index. This chart is broken down into 4 categories of increasing concern: caution (light yellow), extreme caution (yellow), danger (orange), and extreme danger (red).

Heat index chart from the National Weather Service. Retrieved from

Doing physical work in extreme heat can be dangerous, so you may want to rethink your schedule when the forecast is calling for high temperatures.  Many physical activities can be rescheduled for a different day when the weather is cooler.  If the activity can’t wait, try to reschedule the timing of the activity to the cooler parts of the morning and evening rather than during the hottest parts of the day.

If you can’t reschedule the activity due to time sensitivity, please keep in mind these tips to stay safe.

  1. Wear sunscreen when out in the sunlight.
  2. Stay out of the sun and in the shade as much as possible.
  3. Keep hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the activity.
  4. Take frequent breaks.
  5. Be mindful when doing tasks with employees who may not be as acclimated to working in heat as you are. Check in with them to make sure they are feeling okay.  Be sure to do this multiple times for tasks that require a long working period in the heat.

Signs of Heat Stress

What signs should you be on the lookout for when working in hot weather?

  • Heavy sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fainting

If you see signs of heat exhaustion, stop the task or activity and get the person to a cooler area right away.  Have the person drink some water.  Apply cool, wet cloth to the person.  Get medical help if symptoms get worse or persist for longer than an hour.  For a Center for Disease Control and Prevention factsheet on signs of heat-related illness, and what to do when you see signs of these illnesses, please visit

On a farm there will always be work waiting for you, much of it at less than convenient times.  Your job is to keep yourself and your employees safe.  Sometimes that means doing tasks when it is safe to do them, not when it is “time” to do them.


Note: This article originally was published in the Marquette County Tribune, Waushara Argus, and/or the Berlin Journal.  This article was written by Lyssa Seefeldt, UW-Extension Agriculture Agent for Marquette County unless otherwise noted.