By Loyd McIntosh
Now that it is officially summer, the temperatures in many parts of the country are approaching triple digits. While office workers have the luxury of working in air-conditioned spaces, many workers either work outdoors exposed to the elements or in non-climate-controlled environments like warehouses and factories. There are many potential risks to working in hot weather, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening condition. Regardless of your working environment, here are some tips to help you protect yourself and stay safe working in hot weather.
Perhaps the top tip for working in hot weather, drinking plenty of water is key to staying cool in the heat, but it’s important to drink correctly. Don’t just wait until your thirsty. Instead, drink small amounts of water regularly throughout the day to help prevent heat exhaustion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends drinking one cup of water every 15- 20 minutes even if you’re not thirsty. Additionally, avoid energy drinks, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol. For longer projects in the heat, drink a sports beverage containing electrolytes or mix some electrolyte tablets into some water.
Take Frequent Breaks
Taking frequent breaks is essential when working in hot weather. When possible, take your breaks in a shaded area or indoors where air-conditioning is available. A break is also a great time to hydrate. Rest, along with hydration, will help you maintain optimum performance on your task which can be negatively affected as you become more dehydrated.
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Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing, sunglasses, and a hat with a wide brim to protect yourself when working in hot weather. Also, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends applying a 15 SPF sunscreen 30 minutes before starting any outdoor task to prevent sunburn which can affect your body’s ability to cool down and make you dehydrated.
Obviously, loading up on pasta and hot soup isn’t a great idea with working in hot weather. Prior to work, eat lighter meals and snack frequently on cold fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products like yogurt.
Carry Cooling Devices
There are more products available than ever to help keep you cool while working in hot weather such as necklace fans, cooling towels, and portable battery-operated misting fans. Many of these products can be found for $15 or less at sporting goods and outdoor stores.
If you are used to working in a climate-controlled environment it will take time for your body to become accustomed the working in hot weather. The CDC recommends starting slowly and gradually increasing the amount of time you spend in the heat. If your heart begins to pound and leaves you gasping for breath, stop working immediately and get into a cool area especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak, or faint. Additionally, the CDC warns that electric fans may provide some level of comfort, but they will not prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Know Your Rights
You have a right to a safe environment and a right to refuse work situations in certain dangerous conditions, including extreme heat. Learn more about OSHA Worker Rights and Protections and what do to should you have a workplace safety concern at https://www.osha.gov/workers.