According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, taking more lives yearly than the combined efforts of floods, lightning, tornadoes and hurricanes.
With thousands of workers experiencing heat-related illnesses – sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion & sunstroke – conditions that can quickly become deadly, knowing how to avoid them is crucial for any individual – from farmers to construction workers – working outside in the heat.
The following 3 tips provide the essential information needed for staying healthy & safe even while working for any length of time outside in the heat.
- Hydrate. Drinking lots of water is crucial for preventing serious illness and even death when working outside in the heat. Individuals should drink lots of water even if they donâ€™t feel thirsty with non-alcoholic and decaffeinated liquids also being beneficial. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which have the potential to dehydrate.
- Protect. Protection while outside in the heat involves wearing the following items regularly: safetyglasses with UV protection, sunscreen, brimmed hats and loose & light clothing. Protection also means taking regular breaks and using cooling fans whenever possible.
- Educate. Know what triggers heat illness. Culprits include high temperatures, direct sun or heat, limited air flow, physical exertion, poor physical condition, some medications & bulky clothing.
Also, be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, which include dry, hot skin, no sweating, mental confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures and convulsions. Knowing these simple facts helps workers not only act when necessary to prevent a condition from worsening but also keeping it from happening in the first place.
For individuals who need to work in the heat, beating the heat requires a partnership. When workers and employers both understand the potential for heat-related illness and even death, prevention becomes a key focus when temperatures rise.
Employers can provide water, breaks, safety gear & education while workers can avail themselves of the resources and take responsibility for their own safety. At the same time, each person can watch for the signs of heat-related problems in others and add a layer of helpful accountability.