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sick farm worker

Is it Pesticide Poisoning or Heat Exhaustion?

Pesticide poisonings are often mistaken for symptoms of other illnesses, such as the flu, heat exhaustion, food poisoning, and asthma. When pesticide handlers become ill from working with organophosphate or carbamate insecticides in warm and hot environments, it is sometimes hard to tell whether the person is suffering from heat exhaustion or pesticide poisoning. Anyone who works with or near pesticides should be aware of the symptoms of pesticide poisoning.

Pesticide applicators who work with organophosphate or carbamate insecticides in warm and hot conditions need to be especially aware of the difference between heat exhaustion and pesticide poisoning.
It is not always easy to tell if a person is suffering from heat exhaustion or pesticide poisoning.

The EPA has provided the following chart to help you compare symptoms.

Systems of Heat Exhaustion

Dry Membranes
Dry Mouth
No Tears
No Spit Present
Fast Pulse (slow if person has fainted)
Dilated Pupils
Central Nervous System Depression
Loss of Coordination
Fainting (prompt recovery)

Systems of Heat Exhaustion

Moist Membranes
Spit Present in Mouth
Slow Pulse
Nausea and Diarrhea
Possibly Small Pupils
Central Nervous System Depression
Loss of Coordination
Coma (can't awaken)

What should you do if you suspect a case of pesticide poisoning?

Time is critical with any pesticide poisoning! Get immediate help from a local hospital; physician; or poison control center (800-222-1222). If you believe you have been poisoned or injured by pesticides on an agricultural establishment covered under the Worker Protection Standards (WPS), your employer must:

  • Make transportation available from the job site to a medical care facility.
  • Provide information about the pesticide to which you may have been exposed.

If you suspect heat exhaustion, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you:

  • Move the person out of the heat and into a shady or air-conditioned place.
  • Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly.
  • Remove tight or heavy clothing.
  • Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.
  • Cool the person by spraying or sponging with cool water and fanning.
  • Monitor the person carefully.

Call 911 or your local emergency number if the person's condition deteriorates, especially if he or she experiences:

  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Fever of 104 F (40 C) or greater

In either case, do not hesitate to seek medical attention. Call 911 if in doubt.

Employers, Protect Your Workers and Your Business! 
Make sure your employees are properly trained, current with their license and WPS compliant. Pennsylvania Pesticide Applicators must complete 6 credits of core training each certification cycle in addition to category specific requirements. See chart for details.

Renewal Deadline
Commercial Applicators - annually by 9/30
Public Certified Applicators - every 3 yrs by 9/30
Registered Technicians - annually by 2/28
Private Applicators - every 3 yrs by 3/31

Worker Protection Safety (WPS) Training
As of January 2, 2017, the EPA Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) requires employers to provide protection to workers and handlers from potential pesticide exposure. Pesticide safety training is part of the requirement. If you do not train your workers properly you run the risk of employee injury and penalties which could cost you thousands of dollars. Certified Training Institute has partnered with Mississippi State University to bring the highest quality pesticide education to Pennsylvania as well as the entire nation. This training is designed to help you comply with the new regulations. Worker Protection Safety (WPS) training is available online  HERE  Training programs are available to help you train all your workers. Packages are available to train 1-25 workers. There's also an option to train an unlimited amount of workers.

Sign up today and begin your required training and stay in compliance with the new laws. Courses are available at –

Pennsylvania Online Pesticide Professional
Exam Prep, Continuing Education and WPS Training

Pennsylvania State-approved video courses are available 24/7


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