Now that the rains in Texas have stopped and ark building has slowed considerably, the weather seems to be turning more toward the normal – 100 degrees and 100% humidity…
Television news and weather bunnies are already touting helpful tips on dealing with the summer heat. Snow cone sales are up and air conditioning companies are getting ready for Christmas – in July…
Summer has arrived and opportunities for employees to experience heat-related illnesses are on the upswing. If your troops labor outdoors all the time, they have no doubt learned the finer points of dealing with the summer heat. Our friends at OSHA have developed some helpful hints on working in the summer heat.
Dealing with Summer Heat – Hints from OSHA
1. Drink small amounts of water frequently. Dehydration can sneak up on you with little or no warning. Be aware of your condition – if you are not sweating or going to the restroom frequently, increase your water intake. Employers are required by OSHA to provide clean, sanitary sources of water and disposable drinking cups at the worksite.
2. Take breaks more frequently and take them in the shade. Getting out of direct sunlight into a shaded area will help lower skin temperature and allow the body to refresh itself. A cool drink of water and a wet handkerchief or towel will help.
3. Eat smaller meals before going to work. Consider fruits and grains instead of bacon and eggs. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar at all mealtimes.
4. Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid over-exposure of arms and legs to direct sunlight. ALWAYS wear a hat when working outdoors. If a hardhat is required for your job, add a sun brim that slides over the hat and provides protection all the way round for the wearer.
5. Work in the shade whenever possible. Some jobs allow for the erection of portable tents or sunscreens to provide employees with a shady area in which to work. As the work progresses down the pipeline for example, the portable shade is moved along with the workers.
6. Remember that respirators, welding masks, protective clothing, etc. can increase stress on the body in extremely hot weather. Employees required to wear heavy protective clothing on top of their street clothes may need to take breaks much more frequently. Fire Departments for example call in extra crews when fighting fires in hot weather to allow for frequent substitution of crew members on the fire line.
7. Consider changing work hours in the summer months. Some employers start the workday at 5:00 AM or earlier and the crews are finished for the day in the early afternoon before the high temps of the day have arrived.
8. Use sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30. Remember that sunscreen must be applied frequently throughout the day to be effective in protecting the wearer from harmful ultra-violet rays.
9. Train your troops on recognizing the onset of heat illness in both themselves and co-workers. Remove affected employees from direct sunlight into a cool shady area at the first sign of heat related stress.
I’m not sure if workers ever become totally acclimated to working outdoors in high heat and humidity. These hints from OSHA are also applicable to “weekend warriors” who labor outdoors in lawns and gardens after spending the workweek in air conditioned offices. Be smart and stay weather-aware!