Thousands of workers fall ill from heat exposure every year, and as temperatures continue to rise it’s just a matter of time before you or someone on your staff is affected. While you can’t control the weather, there are precautions you can take to prevent heat illness. Follow these steps to manage the effects of the summer heat.
Gradually increase your exposure to the heat
Employees who are new to outdoor work, or those who have been away from work for more than a week, are more sensitive to intense heat while working. Introduce these employees to the heat for short periods and gradually increase their exposure over the next few days. Once their bodies acclimate to these conditions, they will adjust more easily to the heat throughout the summer.
Sip cool water
We all know the importance of drinking plenty of water when it’s hot outside. Try to consume one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes to maintain good hydration. Rather than gulping down lots of cold water at once, take sips of cool water throughout the day.
Take breaks when necessary
Acknowledge when you need to take a break from the sun and find shade or an air-conditioned area to cool down in. Giving your body time to cool and refresh lowers the intensity of working outside and helps your body maintain a healthy temperature. Help protect your workers by building breaks into the workday and encouraging employees to rest when necessary.
Be extra cautious if you wear protective gear
Working outside when the temperature and humidity are high is dangerous enough, but wearing protective gear puts you at greater risk for heat illness. It can be difficult for air to circulate through protective garments, so take extra caution when wearing them and take action when you need to cool down.
Regularly monitor the weather forecast and adjust your schedule as necessary
Check the weather forecast every morning to know what to expect each day. If you can rearrange your team’s schedule to accommodate weather conditions, do so. Plan outdoor tasks in the morning before the onset of intense heat, and work indoor tasks into your afternoon schedule. You can also consider rotating job functions among workers to minimize overexertion and heat exposure.
Avoid dehydrating drinks
If you drink caffeinated or sugary beverages on a regular basis (i.e., coffee, soda or energy drinks), consider taking a break or reducing consumption during the brutal summer heat. These dehydrating beverages counteract your efforts to prevent heat illness. Water is the best choice when working outdoors, however consuming reasonable amounts of sports drinks will help replace the salts and minerals you lose through sweat.
Know what to look for
Understanding signs of heat illness can help you identify when you need to seek help. Train your employees to recognize serious heat-related illnesses and respond appropriately. If you notice symptoms of severe heat illness in yourself or others (i.e., confusion, vomiting or loss of consciousness), call 911 immediately and keep the person cool until help arrives. Do not continue working if you feel ill. People who have high blood pressure, heart disease or a history of heat illness are at a greater risk for heat illness and should take special precautions. Learn about additional warning signs to protect yourself and others