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.

  1. 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 don’t feel thirsty with non-alcoholic and decaffeinated liquids also being beneficial. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which have the potential to dehydrate.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.