Working outside in hot and humid summer weather is not just uncomfortable- it can be downright dangerous. Working in hot environments can result in heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat can also increase your chances of suffering an injury if your palms get sweaty and slippery, if your safety glasses fog up and reduce your vision, or if you become dehydrated and dizzy.
First, let your body adjust to the hot weather. Almost everyone can get used to the heat, but it can take five to seven days. While your body changes so that it can tolerate higher temperatures, be sure to take breaks, stay cool, and do not work too hard. Getting adjusted to the heat does not make you invincible. You can still suffer heat illnesses, so be careful.
Second, stay hydrated. Your body can produce as much as two gallons of sweat during a day’s work in the heat. Make sure that you are drinking enough to replace the fluids you are losing. Water and electrolyte replacement drinks are best. Stay away from soft drinks, alcohol, beverages that contain a lot of caffeine, and â€˜sports’ drinks that contain a lot of sugar. You should be drinking about eight ounces of water every fifteen to twenty minutes to stay hydrated. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink; if you do, you’re already too late because thirst is a sign of dehydration. You should not try to drink a whole gallon of water at lunch and then another at the end of the day.
Third, plan for the heat. When possible, try to schedule the heaviest or hardest work for the coolest time of the day. Perhaps you can start work earlier in the morning. Schedule time to take breaks in the shade or a cool area. Wear light-colored, light-weight clothing. Cotton is better than wool, and some new synthetic fibers are better than cotton.
Heat stress can be a killer. Learn to recognize the symptoms in yourself and your co-workers. The symptoms include feeling faint or dizzy, nauseous, experiencing excessive perspiration, a rapid heartbeat, heat cramps, a head-ache and fatigue. Heat stress can quickly become a medical emergency. Pay attention to yourself and other people working with you. If someone shows signs of heat stress, that person needs to cool down. Get him or her to a cool or shady area. Use water or fans if necessary. Call 911 if his or her condition does not improve or if it gets worse.
Keeping in mind that age, physical condition, hydration level and certain medications will affect how the human body handles high temperatures and heavy physical exertion. If you have a health condition or are taking medications, talk with your doctor about how you should handle working in a hot environment. Heat hazards can be handled like other hazards: identify the danger, make a plan, and take action so you do not get hurt.
Safety reminder: solar radiation- sunshine- can cook your skin and cause skin cancer. Use sun block to protect your skin.