Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Training Resources and Frequently Asked Questions


Heat-related illness is a set of medical conditions, from mild to severe. These conditions — rash, cramps, exhaustion, and heat stroke — occur when the body can’t cope with the heat from the environment and strenuous activity.

People working in agriculture are like endurance athletes – completing physically demanding work over a long period of time. Like a coach manages and cares for a sports team, business owners, managers, and supervisors can take simple steps to protect employees’ health and increase their performance. 

Training Scripts - English

Includes a script, discussion prompts, and visual aids for five tailgate trainings. Topics covered: signs and symptoms, risk factors, acclimatization, importance of water, and basic first aid.

Training Scripts - Espanol

Includes a script, discussion prompts, and visual aids for five tailgate trainings. Topics covered: signs and symptoms, risk factors, acclimatization, importance of water, and basic first aid.

Training Videos

Novelas sobre trabajo en el calor is a bilingual (English-Spanish) training video series. Topics covered: signs and symptoms, risk factors, acclimatization, importance of water, and basic first aid.

Training Log

Attendance at all trainings should be documented. Use this editable template to create a log for employees to sign.

Advice from Farmworkers Video

This short video (English-Spanish) features interviews from farmworkers sharing their experiences with heat-related illness and strategies to protect their health.

Legal Posting Requirements

By law, Colorado agricultural businesses must post or distribute a notice of worker rights under the Agricultural Labor Rights and Responsibilities Act. Colorado Department of Labor and Employment provides compliant posters in English and Spanish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the risk of heat-related illness?

Farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers are at greater risk of heat-related illness than other occupational groups. Their risk is increased due to specific working conditions (like working in peak heat, wearing protective equipment) and individual health risks (like diabetes, heart conditions, older age). Specific weather conditions, such as the intensity of the sun’s rays at high altitudes, can also increase risk for people who work outdoors in the Rocky Mountain region. 

How do I prevent heat-related illness?

Water, Rest, Shade – The gold standard for prevention of heat-related illness at work is to implement Water, Rest, and Shade procedures. Workers should drink 32oz of cool water every hour. Drinking small amounts of water more frequently, as opposed to large volumes occasionally, is better for staying hydrated. Water intake can be supplemented with sports drinks, particularly when sweating a lot. Workers should also stop working and take frequent rest breaks. To be most effective at cooling the body, these rest breaks should be in a fully shaded or actively cooled location. 

Acclimatization – With gradual exposure, the body develops an improved ability to cope with the heat. This process of adjusting to heat is called acclimatization or acclimation and can take up to two weeks. During this period, the amount of time spent working in the heat should increase gradually day-by-day. A new worker should work 1.5-2 hours in the heat on their first day, increasing by 1.5-2 hours a day. The risk of heat illness is increased when an employee is not acclimated, so workers should also take extra precautions during the acclimation period (more frequent rest, drink more water, worker at a slower pace). 

Training – Workers should be trained to recognize, prevent, and respond to heat-related illness signs and symptoms. All employers should be trained on the specific prevention and response procedures for their worksites, especially managers and supervisors with responsibility for implementing these procedures.  

When is heat-related illness a medical emergency?

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, and 911 should be called right away. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • High body temperature (>103°F)
  • Hot, red skin
  • Fast strong pulse
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Additional situations to seek immediate medical care:

  • Cramps last longer than 1 hour
  • Other symptoms (dizziness, headache, nausea) last longer than 1 hour
  • Vomiting occurs
  • Urine is brown (the color of cola)

What does prevention look like at a livestock business?

Heat-related illness can happen to people doing any kind of agricultural work, not just fruit and vegetable production. Livestock operations likely have indoor, climate-controlled break areas. In these settings, supervisors and employers likely need to focus their  heat-illness prevention prevention efforts on ensuring workers have unimpeded access to and want to use these areas.

What are agricultural employers’ legal requirements for heat illness prevention?

Since May 2022, the state of Colorado requires all agricultural employers to comply with 7 CCR 1103-15, Agricultural Labor Conditions Rules. This includes, but is not limited to, provision of water, shade, cool-down breaks, and training. Full compliance information is available from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. 

There is not a federal standard for heat-related illness prevention. However, all employers have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace free from serious hazards. 


Whitney Pennington
Whitney Pennington

HICAHS Outreach Lead