In hot weather, we must take extra precautions when working in, or just going out in, the heat. These precautions are not only for worksites, but should also be followed on personal time. Dehydration, sunburn, and fatigue are a few problems everyone faces during the summer months. A little prior preparation and awareness will help you, your family, and coworkers stay healthy and safe. Please take the following tips into consideration:
High temperatures inside stationary or work vehicles without AC are a real danger. When temperatures outside range from 80 degrees to 100 degrees, the temperature inside a car parked in direct sunlight can quickly climb to between 130 to 172°F. Because of the greenhouse effect, radiation that enters the car cannot escape, even with the windows rolled down.
- Whenever possible, park your vehicle in or under a garage, and never put or leave children or pets in a hot car; and
- When getting groceries, use a cooler in the trunk to keep cold items cold.
To prevent dehydration, we should all drink lots of water. On a regular basis, people should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, which is about 2 liters or half a gallon.
- Even while running errands, always carry a water bottle or keep water readily available. Fill with ice first to keep the water cool as long as possible;
- When working out in the sun in high heat conditions (103-115°F), workers should drink 4-6 cups of clean, cool water every hour! (Up to 12 liters or three gallons a day); and
- Avoid drinking coffee on hot jobs, and avoid drinking alcohol even AFTER work on hot days.
Daily use of sunscreen is overlooked, but is critical to prevent skin cancer, especially for outdoor workers on highway, construction, and landscaping jobs in direct sun. Even incidental sun exposure causes this most common cancer in the US. Because sun exposure is cumulative, over time, the sun’s UV rays cause dangerous changes in skin cells. There are two types of sunscreens: physical sunscreens, like those that contain zinc and titanium oxide, deflect the sun’s rays, and work immediately on application; and chemical sunscreens that work by absorbing the sun’s UV rays. Clothing does not provide adequate sunscreen.
- About a shot’s worth of SPF30 sunscreen should be used every day all over; and
- Reapply if you get wet or sweaty.
Working in the sun and not drinking enough water both lead to fatigue, which causes accidents on the job. If you feel extremely fatigued after working in hot conditions, you may have heat exhaustion. Rest in a cool area and drink cool water if you feel weak. Stay safe, take a break!