By Bethany Kroeze | Marketing & Communications Specialist
The day-to-day temperatures so far this spring have been like a rollercoaster ride, to put it mildly. Even if you have had your heat running in the last week, you know, deep down, that the summer heat wave is coming soon enough.
Today is National Heat Safety Awareness Day, so we wanted to share some advice from the National Weather Service on how to safely complete your outdoor work on even the hottest days of summer.
Let’s start with the basics:
Now let’s break them down.
Hydration is the most important. If you are going to be working outside, you need to drink plenty of water. Bring a cooler of water to the worksite or take time to refill your water bottle throughout the day. Caffeine and alcohol consumption can lead to faster dehydration, so minimize your consumption on hot days. You will sweat out most of the water you drink, so don’t worry about needing to take frequent bathroom breaks. If you stop sweating, you are dehydrated and need to take immediate action to rehydrate. Use your phone or smart watch to schedule a reminder every 15 minutes to take a drink of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Set another reminder for a break every hour to get out of the sun. When you are working in the direct sunlight, wear a light-colored, lightweight cotton t-shirt and a hat to shade your face from the sun. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen! If you are in a field with no shade available, bring an umbrella and a hand-held fan to stay out of the sun and keep cool during breaks. If possible, try to complete your outdoor chores and tasks in the early morning or early evening and find things to do in the shade or indoors during the peak of the day’s heat.
Do you know the symptoms of heat-related illness and how to identify them in yourself and your co-workers? Symptoms like headaches, dizziness, irritability, confusion, wet skin, nausea and vomiting are just some things you may experience if your body gets too hot. Also, it is important to stay up-to-date on the weather forecast for your area, so you can better plan your workday.
Did you know that OSHA has an app to help you work safely in the heat? OSHA NIOSH Heat Safety Tool is available to download from the App Store and Google Play. This app allows you to calculate the heat index for your field and, based on that heat index, view a risk level to outdoor workers. You can choose to get reminders about protective measures that should be taken at the current risk level in your area – reminders to drink enough fluids, take a rest break, what to do in an emergency, how to identify heat illness symptoms and how to monitor your co-workers for signs of heat-related illness.
Besides staying hydrated and getting enough rest in the shade, how else can you prevent heat illness? Early in the summer, you need to build up a tolerance to working in the heat. On the first 90-degree+ day, don’t put in a full 12 hours. Start with 4 hours, take a four-hour break (or work indoors) and then complete your outdoor work. Over the course of several days, you can increase the amount of time you spend working in the heat. This will allow your body to adjust properly to the change in temperature.
As the hottest days of the year get closer, remember to stay hydrated, rest and stay informed, and you’ll be ready to take on the work that each day brings!