Read the full disclosure here.
Summer has arrived, and it is HOT! Temperature records are melting all over North America.
But work must continue, and that means workers are out in the summer heat. Working in extreme heat is not just uncomfortable, it can be dangerous, and even deadly. To stay healthy, and to keep healthy at work, it’s important that you know how to work safely in summer heat.
Whether you’re working around the house, or you are on the job, here is what you need to know to work safely in these hot summer temperatures.
Dress Cool to Beat the Heat
While it may be tempting in hot weather to wear as little as possible, this is rarely an ideal solution for the workplace. Rather than the amount of clothing to wear, focus on the type of clothing.
Lightweight fabrics such as linen and cotton allow sweat to evaporate to keep you cooler. Choose lighter colors that reflect heat instead of dark colors that absorb it. Remember when working outdoors, you not only need to stay cool, but avoid sunburn as well. a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt can help keep you cool and protect your skin from the sun. You can also keep cool with moisture-wicking exercise wear.
Finally, add a wide-brimmed hat with mesh or straw weave to allow air circulation while keeping your head cool. And be sure you’ve added the optimal accessory of sunscreen. Apply it before you go out in the sun, and reapply it frequently as long as you are working outside.
Proper hydration is essential for working safely on hot summer days. Water is always a good choice; though if you are sweating a lot, sports drinks containing electrolyte replacement are also helpful. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to take a drink. Schedule regular water breaks. Keeping an insulated water bottle close at hand will help you hydrate more easily.
Avoid sugary drinks like soda, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol, all of which can accelerate dehydration. In addition to drinking water, misting yourself with a spray bottle can also cool you down.
While there is no specific guideline as to how much to drink in a day, health professionals advise checking the color of your urine. If it’s pale, you’re well hydrated. If it’s dark in color, you need more water.
Schedule Your Work for Safety in Summer Heat
If possible, plan your outdoor work for cooler times of day. For example, one of my summer chores is weeding my large garden. I plan gardening time for just after sunrise when the temperature is lowest and the garden is shaded. I realize in the corporate world choosing to work at sunrise isn’t always an option, but if you can shift your work schedule, plan more labor-intensive outdoor chores for cooler periods. To help you plan when to work outdoors, and when not to (whether at work or in your own garden), OSHA-NIOSH has created a heat safety app to help you plan when and how to work safely in summer heat.
If you must work outdoors in the heat of the day, find shade. If you can’t find shade, bring your own. Consider adding a pop-up canopy to your work essentials to help shade you so you can work more comfortably and safely on hot summer days.
In addition to creating shade and planning your work, schedule frequent breaks to get out of the sun and out of the heat. Recognize that whether it’s you, or your crew, working safely in summer heat may mean accepting reduced productivity on hot days.
Acclimatization will also help your team to work safely in summer heat. This helps employees to physically adapt to a new climate. You can learn more about acclimatization including a schedule at the NIOSH website.
Learn to Recognize Heat-Related Illness
Heat-related illnesses can be deadly. You need to know what they are and what to do, not only for yourself, but also for your employees and co-workers. Here is a chart from the CDC describing the symptoms of various heat-related illnesses. You can download and print it by right-clicking on the image—or you can download a PDF from the CDC website.
This summer is the hottest I can remember. In many areas, the temperatures are higher than ever, making work and other activities difficult. Even indoor work can be uncomfortable in extreme heat. We need to be mindful and develop wise work habits to work safely in summer heat. And remember, the heat won’t last forever. Summer will come to an end, and then we’ll be discussing how to work safely in winter weather.
In the meantime, how are you working safely in summer heat?