Safety Tips for Working Outside in Hot Weather

Construction WorkerAccording 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: safetyglasseswithUVprotection, 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.

Indoor UV Protection

UV RaysDoes being indoors mean you’re protected against harmful UV rays from the sun? Yes and no. Consider the following facts about UVA and UVB rays generated by the sun.

  • UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn and are strongest in the summer.
  • UVA rays contribute to premature aging and wrinkles and are constant throughout the year
  • UVA rays account for 95% of UV radiation and are 30-50 times more prevalent than UVB rays.
  • UVB rays cannot pass through glass, while up to 50% of UVA rays can pass through glass.

Does this mean that protection from the sun by using sunscreen, sunglasses and protective closing is necessary? Again, the answer is yes and no.

The amount of UVA rays that pass through windows depends upon the type of glass as well as on the type of coating on the glass. For example, car windows have been proven to let in more than 60% of UVA rays from the sun. For buildings, recent advancements in window glass have provided a glass that reduces UV transmissions to 20%. Some types of glass can even protect against up to 99% of all UV light but are not common in residential or commercial structures.

Because the type of glass varies from one building and vehicle to another, protection from UVA rays while indoors varies tremendously for one individual to the next. The American Academy of Dermatology says that the amount of time a person spends in the car and/or working near windows can significantly impact the amount of UVA rays he/she receives.

While most Americans spend 80% of their days behind glass, individuals most susceptible to problems caused by UVA rays that make their way through glass include anyone working near windows as well as anyone driving or riding in a car for long periods of time. The more time spent in either situation, the more important to take protective measures.

For those with increased indoor exposure to UVA rays, expert recommendations include the following:

  1. Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  2. Consider UV eye protection. Many options exist for every unique situation such as the 3M SmartLens Safety Glasses with Photochromic Lenses for those who need safety glasses.
  3. Use window shades or blinds during times when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  4. Arrange workspace so as not to always be working close to windows.
  5. When driving or riding in a car, wear protective clothing (long-sleeve shirt & pants) and wrap-around sunglasses, like the Bobster Defender Sungalsses, that protect against UVA and UVB rays.
  6. Add tinting to car windows, but make sure the auto facility can meet the federal mandate for tinting.

Many people believe that the type of lighting can also contribute to indoor UV exposure, but research shows lighting sources are not a significant factor in indoor UV exposure. In fact, anti-aging skin care based on independent research indicates that typical exposure to UV light from commonly used types of fluorescent lamps is relatively small” and “most UV light generated by common halogen lamps is blocked.” However, those same studies to recommend considering extra protection, such as those listed above, for those spending a lot of time under fluorescent or halogen lighting. Research Information provided by The National Electrical Manufacturers Association supports the findings of this independent research.

Bottom line: Even if you’re indoors most of the time, spending a lot of time in the sun coming through windows puts you at risk for UVA-related skin cancer as well as increased wrinkles and premature aging. If this is you, take measures to protect your eyes and skin just as if you were outside in direct sunlight for long periods of time.