With dangerously high temperatures sweeping across the Philadelphia region, it’s very important that we take all steps necessary to protect our workers from excessive heat.
Heat stress is increasingly being recognized for contributing to the rapid onset of fatigue, distraction, inattention to details and other deficiencies.
Here are some simple tips for working safely in the summer heat:
1. The most obvious yet effective tactic to avoid overheating is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
In hot weather, you should aim to drink about 100 ounces of water or more a day. While outside, drink at least a cup of water every 20 minutes. Pro tip: Add a pinch of salt and lemon juice to plain water to help maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body.
2. Select your lunch carefully
If you’re working in the heat, avoid a heavy lunch, especially protein-rich meats. You’re better off with smaller snacks and light meals throughout the day, as your body creates more metabolic heat if it’s breaking down heavy foods.
Try to ensure your hot weather diet includes plenty of leafy green vegetables or fresh fruit and nuts to help replenish your electrolytes.
Pro tip: While it may come as a surprise, eating spicy food can help cool you down. Studies show that spicy foods stimulate heat receptors in your mouth, which enhance circulation and cause you to sweat- your body’s natural way of cooling.
3. Adjust your schedule
If working in extreme heat, it’s always better to reschedule work for cooler parts of the day such as the early morning or late evening.
4. Bring shade
Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to bring canopies to set up on the job site. This shade can help workers avoid direct sun exposure for extended periods of time and minimize their risk of heat exhaustion. Just add a fan and a bucket of ice and you’ve got yourself the perfect outdoor break room!
5. Know the signs of heat exhaustion
Stay alert for the warning signs of heat exhaustion. These include heavy sweating, rapid pulse, dizziness, goosebumps on the skin, muscle cramps and headache. It is also a good idea to make all employees aware of these symptoms so that they can look out for one another on the job.
Heat exhaustion is a precursor to the more serious heat stroke, which can typically be identified by a lack of sweating, nausea and vomiting, mental confusion, flushed skin, rapid breathing and a racing pulse.
If you sense that you or someone else is suffering from heat exhaustion, get them out of the sun and into a cooler setting. If you believe it has moved on to the more serious heat stroke, seek medical attention immediately. Remember it’s always better to play it safe when working outside in the heat; your health is too important to do anything else.
Pro tip: Give your body time to acclimate to the warm weather. Medical professionals suggest that it can take as long as seven to 14 days to get used to a change in temperature.