Working safely in the heat
As summer approaches, so do the dangers of working outside during hot weather. Knowing how to work safely in hot weather can help prevent heat stress injuries and heat stroke, the most serious heat-related disorder, according to NIOSH. Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. When this occurs, body temperature can rise to 106° F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes, NIOSH warns. If emergency treatment is not provided, heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- An extremely high body temperature (higher than 103° F)
- Red, hot and dry skin with no visible sweating
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and/or nausea
To help beat the heat, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends:
- Drink two to four cups of water every hour.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
- Limit outdoor work to mornings and evenings and rest often in a shaded area.
- Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
If heat stroke is suspected, the department advises calling for emergency medical help, moving the worker to a shady area and placing him or her in a tub of cool water or cool shower, or spraying the victim with a garden hose. Do not give the victim any fluids to drink.
To combat the dangers of working in extreme heat, NIOSH advises:
- Schedule repair jobs in hot regions for cooler months.
- Acclimate workers to hot environments by exposing them for progressively longer periods.
- Use relief workers or assign extra workers for physically demanding outdoor jobs.
- Schedule rest periods in cool, shaded areas with access to water.
- Provide heat stress training.