Hot weather, especially when combined with strenuous physical labor, can cause body temperatures to rise to unsafe levels—leading to heat illnesses. Outdoor workers are especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses because they spend the majority of the day outside in direct sunlight.
There are a variety of heat illnesses, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat cramps. Each of these illnesses vary in symptoms and severity, but commonly cause dizziness, weakness, nausea, blurry vision, confusion or loss of consciousness. To stay safe from the heat when working outdoors, consider doing the following:
- Wear loose, light-colored clothing whenever possible.
- Shield your head and face from direct sunlight with a hat.
- Take short breaks to rest in the shade. If you are wearing heavy protective gear, consider removing it during your break to cool off even more.
- Ease into your work, gradually building up to more strenuous activity as the day progresses. In addition, you should avoid overexerting yourself during peak temperature periods (midday).
- Drink liquids frequently, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Experts recommend drinking at least 8 ounces every 20 to 30 minutes to stay hydrated. Stick to water, fruit juice and sport drinks. Try to avoid caffeinated beverages, as they can dehydrate you.
Employees should monitor themselves and co-workers on hot days. If you notice any signs of heat illness, notify your on-duty supervisor immediately.
Most often, heat illness sufferers can be treated by being moved to a cooler area and given liquids. In extreme cases of heat stroke where an employee is unconscious, you will have to call an ambulance immediately.