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Think Safety When the Mercury Rises

Having the hot sun beating down on their backs is nothing new to those who work outside. Jobs don’t stop when temperatures soar. Unfortunately, the only choice is to work through it — often easier said than done.

The hot summer months pose special hazards for those who work outdoors. Your team must protect themselves against heat, sun exposure and other hazards. Both you and your employees must be aware of the potential hazards in the work environment and how best to manage them.

The Biggest Threat Is The Sun

Clearly, the biggest threat to outdoor workers is the sun. To begin with, sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, cataracts and skin cancer. There are no safe UV rays or safe suntans. It is important to be especially careful in the sun if you burn easily, spend a lot of time outdoors or have any of the following physical features: numerous, irregular or large moles; freckles; fair skin; or blond, red or light brown hair. Here’s how to block those harmful rays:

  1. Cover up. Despite the heat, it is best to keep your skin covered. Tightly woven clothing that you can’t see through is the best choice for keeping out UV rays.
  2. Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays. When using sunscreen, always follow the application directions on the bottle or tube.
  3. Wear a hat. Outdoor workers, like construction crews, are generally required to wear hard hats. However, you might take the time to encourage everyone to wear hats off the job to protect their necks, ears, eyes, foreheads, noses and scalps from the sun.
  4. Wear UV-absorbent shades. Good sunglasses do not have to cost an arm and a leg. However, they should block 99 percent to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Before buying sunglasses, it is important to read the label or tag.
  5. Limit exposure. UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. — the heart of the workday. However, when there is a choice, try doing indoor work on days when the UV index is really high.

Hot weather is nothing to take lightly. Some workers will try to tough it out but, in the meantime, may be doing irreversible, even fatal, damage to their skin and bodies.

Safety Tips

How to Safely Manage Summer Hazards

The heat from the sun can be devastating. The combination of heat and humidity can pose serious health threats during the summer months. To reduce the risk of heat-related illness, make sure to:

  1. Drink plenty of water — even if you are not thirsty.
  2. Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
  3. Take frequent short breaks in the shade.
  4. Eat smaller meals before work activity.
  5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
  6. Find out from your doctor whether working in the heat will affect your medications.
  7. Know that equipment, such as respirators, can increase heat stress.

Signs Of Heat-Related Illness

When the body is unable to cool itself through sweating, serious heat illnesses can occur. The most severe heat-induced illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If left untreated, heat exhaustion could progress to heat stroke and possible death.

Heat exhaustion is caused by the loss of large amounts of fluid. Victims still sweat, but experience weakness, fatigue, giddiness, nausea or headache. In serious cases, the victim may vomit or lose consciousness.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body’s temperature regulatory system fails and sweating becomes inadequate. The body’s only effective means of removing excess heat is compromised with little warning that a crisis stage has been reached. Victims should be taken to a cool area, and their clothing should be soaked with water.

Vigorously fan the victim to increase cooling and get him or her to a hospital or call 9-1-1. Fast action can prevent brain damage or death.

Supervisor Corner

Protect Employees from Heat Related Illnesses by Taking Preventative Action

With temperatures rising, now is the time to start training employees on the safety hazards of heat related illnesses and implementing preventative measures for your workers who are exposed to extreme heat conditions.

  • Train and educate workers and supervisors on risk factors and early warning signs of heat related illnesses
  • Provide cool drinking water near work areas and promote regular hydration before feeling thirsty
  • Monitor temperature and humidity levels near work areas
  • Implement a heat management program so everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency
  • Use work cycles to limit prolonged exposure to hot work areas and allow workers routine breaks in the shade
  • Use the “buddy system” to monitor worker conditions
  • Use safety supplies such as cooling vests, especially under heavy protective gear
  • Acclimate workers by exposing them for progressively long periods of time to hot work environments
  • Schedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day
  • Avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar

Through heat stress knowledge and tactics, you ensure the health and safety of your workers over the coming summer months.