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A Review for Summer Workplace Safety: Staying Cool, Working Smart & Looking Out for Co-Workers

Summer is upon us again, an it seems like it was just yesterday that we were writing blogs on summer safety. While winter is over, there is now a more dangerous season ahead when it comes to the workplace. Although winter is uncomfortably cold, most people simply dress warm because they know how easy it is to catch frostbite while working outside. It seems as if our bodies tell us "nooo way you cannot deal with this cold" and so we dress accordingly for comfort. Yet, in the summer while we might dress accordingly, it can be much easier to misjudge our body's reactions and/or ability to deal with the heat. To put it simply, it's more likely that you'll suffer heat stress, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke while working during the summer than you will suffer from frostbite or hypothermia in the winter. The symptoms differ and many times we'll tell ourselves we can keep pushing on when our bodies literally cannot.
 
What we wanted to do here is make a quick review of a few things to remember, talk about amongst coworkers, employees or your employer in hopes of creating awareness about just how serious the summer heat can be.
 
1.) Make sure that you stay hydrated, especially during strenuous physical activity. Don't wait until lunch time to take a drink and try to stay away from sugary sodas and energy drinks as these can make us even more dehydrated. Talk to the boss or co-workers about a drink station or a shared cooler that scan be loaded with ice water to ensure everyone has access to fluids as needed. One great idea is to take a jug of water and throw it into the freezer each night. When you leave for work in the morning, bring it along. Keep it in the shade and slightly insulated with a shirt or something similar. As the ice slowly melts throughout the day, you'll have a good supply of icy cold water to hydrate as needed. Remember, sweating causes rapid fluid loss and during extreme temperatures this can severely limit your body's ability to cool itself.
 
2.) Avoid over-exertion. Make sure you take breaks as necessary, as the heat can be deadly under certain circumstances. If you're an employer, be sure to provide access to some sort of shade on the worksite and expect that your workers will need to break more often during extremely hot days. It's better to cool off intermittently than to try and tough it out, which will usually affect work performance as well. Make sure you pace yourself accordingly for working in severe heat because heat exhaustion and heat stroke can set in before you know it and by that time, it's already too late.
 
3.) Dress accordingly! There's an abundance of high visibility cooling gear and cooling products available to purchase that can drastically reduce your body temperature, reduce sun-exposure and keep you cooler and more comfortable throughout the work day. Look into these products and make the small investment to ensure you're health and comfort this summer. After all, we go to work so we can afford to enjoy life; not to end up injured or dead due to heat-related injuries.
 
Don't forget that the heat not only has the ability to negatively effect your body via heat stress, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, but it can also negatively affect your brain function which can lead to injuries that could otherwise be avoided. Getting lightheaded for a few seconds due to the heat might be all it takes for you to lose focus and end up in the path of danger from heavy equipment or hazardous machinery. Please, use your head, pay attention to your body and proceed accordingly during the hottest days of the summer months. You owe it to yourself! And as always, be sure to keep a friendly eye on your co-workers. If someone looks like they might be getting to hot or isn't looking well, tell them to take 10, rehydrate and get out of the sun. This is especially true for those co-workers who might be a bit stubborn and always reply with "No, no, I'm fine!" Teamwork is a large part to ensuring workplace safety! Do your part and you'll be productive, healthy and safe all summer long.

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