Heat Stress Can Make You Sick, or Worse!
If you’ve never worked outside, you may not realize just how dangerous it can be. Heat stress is just one risk outdoor workers face every summer. Various kinds of heat stress can cause illness, injury and even death. The Center for Disease Control (CDC, 2018) estimates that somewhere around 658 people fall victim to hyperthermia, otherwise known as heat-related illness.
So, it’s important to have a game plan in place to battle the scorching conditions before you or your crew falls victim to Mother Nature’s fury. We asked HiVis Hank for his thoughts on how you can stay cool this summer. We weren’t surprised he had a few things to say on the matter.
1. Stay Hydrated, My Friend
During hot weather months, you’ll need to up your fluid intake, especially if your work is strenuous. Whether you realize it or not, you’re sweating more and losing precious fluids, salt and minerals. Chances are by the time your body says it’s thirsty, you’ll already well on your way to dehydration mode.
HiVis Hank says: Keep cold water, sports drinks and electrolyte solutions on hand for regular hydration throughout the day.
2. Nix that Last Cup of Joe
Wait! Don’t shoot the messenger. We get it, most of us can’t function without that first cup of coffee or energy drink. Just try to limit what you drink on hot days. Too much caffeine can actually make you dehydrated and on a sweltering hot day, you certainly don’t need help in that department.
3. Dress for the Job You Have
When able, choose cool, loose-fitting, light-colored fabrics that can help regulate your body’s core temperature. Be sure to check with the jobsite safety plan for any PPE requirements you need to adhere to, such as flame-resistant clothing. Certain hazards will require you to wear specialized clothing and you may need to find alternative means to stay cool such as additional break times, jobsite fans or cooling vests.
It also may be tempting to strip down to the bare minimum, but all that exposed skin is a prime target for sunburn. Which is not only painful, but affects your body’s ability to cool itself. If areas of your skin must be exposed, be sure to use a good quality sunscreen.
4. Seek Shelter from the Sweltering Sun
When it’s hot outside, you need to take additional breaks. OSHA says workers should spend rest time in an air-conditioned room, truck or trailer for at least 15 minutes every hour. That’s means in a place that’s cool and shaded from the sun. Set up rest stations under a tent and add misting systems for effective cooling.
HiVis Hank says: No A/C? Cool off with a jobsite fan and cooling towels to help your body regulate its core temperature and slow down your heart rate.
5. Change Your Schedule
Try to get the bulk of the work done by starting work a little earlier in the day, especially before the midday sun takes its toll. If you can’t change your schedule, allow yourself time to acclimate to the hotter conditions instead of trying to be a superhero and going in full throttle.
HiVis Hank says: Sweating is usually a sign your body’s temperature regulating system is working. Too much sweat or too little can be problematic, so get to know your body and take it easy.
6. Have Cooling Towels and Clothing on Hand
The quickest way to cool off is to take a cool shower or bath, but if that’s not possible cooling towels and cooling vests can help. You can either run them under cool water to activate the cooling properties or keep them in a cooler of ice water for all day relief.
7. Skip Happy Hour and that greasy cheeseburger
There’s a reason why HiVis Hank saved this for last. He knew you might run off before he got to finish his list of dos and don’ts. There’s nothing wrong with unwinding after a long day with a cold one. But anyone who’s ever had a hangover will know alcohol can be dehydrating, even more so during a heatwave. And that greasy cheeseburger and fries may sound like a good idea at lunchtime, but digesting all that heavy food can also increase body temperature. Save it for the weekend when you can relax.
Working in hot conditions is often just part of the job, but it can be deadly. So, it’s important you take heat-related illness seriously. HiVis Hank has been on many jobs where his buddies refused to take breaks, thinking they were untouchable. On a few occasions that thinking led them straight to the emergency room with an IV in their arm. Don’t be like HiVis Hank’s buddies. Be smart and stay safe.
Check out this blog Fast Treatment for 6 Common Heat-Related Illnesses to learn how to spot the signs of heat stress before you fall victim yourself.
If you find yourself with questions about heat-related illnesses and need assistance, just ask the friendly pros at HiVis Supply by clicking here.