School is out. Lawns are freshly mowed. Burgers and dogs are on the grill. Summer is officially here. This season may conjure images of relaxation and recreation. But while the sun beats down, there are some precautions we should all take to ensure maximum enjoyment of the dog days of summer. A few short months ago, we were worried about frostbite, now let’s deal with heat stress.
The Sun Isn’t All Fun
If you are outside working in direct sunlight for an extended period without proper hydration, you may begin to experience a range of symptoms that signal heat stroke. Many people may start to feel thirsty, dizzy, or have a headache. These symptoms are your body’s warning. If you don’t heed the initial signs, symptoms may progress to include nausea, vomiting, fainting, and profuse sweating. Eventually, your core body temperature will rise and you won’t be able to sweat as your body tries to conserve fluids, leading to collapse, seizure, and possible death.
Heat Stress Can Happen Indoors
While we generally think of heat stroke as being caused by outdoor exposure during the summer months, keep in mind that some factory environments mimic summer weather. High temperatures, humidity, still air—whether indoors or out—can lead to heat stress. It’s worth the time and effort to take steps toward alleviating heat stress. A little bit of planning, preparation, and prevention can go a long way.
Know the Risks
The good news is that heat stress is generally preventable. With a little awareness and some precautionary measures, we can help each other beat the heat and stay safe this summer. A few things increase the risks, including:
- High temperature, high humidity, and physical labor, especially if you haven’t acclimated to the temperature
- Low liquid intake
- Heavy, waterproof clothing
Prepare for the Effects
Here are a few simple things you can do to avoid heat stress and its dangerous effects.
- Hydrate: Water is best, avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages
- Dress appropriately: Lightweight, breathable, light-colored clothing
- Take breaks: Seek out shade or air conditioning
- Monitor Yourself and Others: Use a buddy system to monitor the signs/symptoms
OSHA offers a quick card to help you prevent and identify heat stroke.
Manage Heat Stress Symptoms
If someone is experiencing significant illness due to the heat, you should take additional measures. Move the person to an area where the temperature is cooler. Just moving out of the sun to a shaded area can mean a 10-15 degree difference in the temperature. Start to cool the person with a wet towel or cool water spray. Provide a hydrating beverage. If these steps don’t help, the person may become agitated or confused and experience an increased core temperature that can lead to a seizure. Don’t wait. Call 9-1-1, and request emergency medical assistance.
Stay Cool with the Right Gear
If you’re going to be in an environment that will cause heat stress, you can utilize evaporative cooling products to manage your body temperature. These items can be something as simple as a wet washcloth or as advanced as an insulated phase change cooling vest. Most people find that a good quality cooling bandana, a brimmed hat, and breathable clothing are sufficient. Some cooling bandanas are made to last for hours, and some t-shirts boast UPF/UV protection and built-in insect repellant, a bonus since we’re all hearing about how prevalent ticks are during the warmer months.
We Can Help You Beat Heat Stress
Whatever your plans may be for the summer, don’t forget to plan and avoid heat stress. Help your friends and family stay aware of the potential danger. Stay hydrated, stay cool, and make sure you can fully enjoy the summer because we’ll be back to shoveling snow and hitting the ski slopes before you know it!
If you need help selecting the right gear, our specialists can offer expert recommendations to keep your workers safe. Contact us today!
How are you handling working in the heat? Let us know in the comments.