Summer heat safety on the job
We're in the Dog Days of Summer, and that means that we're in for some of the hottest, muggiest weather of the year. With high temperatures comes a higher risk of heat-related illnesses and injuries, especially for people who work outdoors or in direct sunlight.
In this week's blog, let's explore critical heat safety for people on the job: What heat illnesses are and what they look like, how to protect yourself from the heat, and when to know it's time to take a break.
Why is heat dangerous for construction workers and laborers?
August brings some of the highest temperatures in the United States and around the world. For people who work outdoors and in the direct sunlight, heat waves can pose a real danger to safety and health. Between soaring daytime temperatures and the extra layers (close-toed shoes, protective helmets, tool belts, etc.) needed to get the job done, the heat piles up!
Heat is a leading cause for on-the-job injuries and illnesses. In the summer, sweaty hands can slip on dangerous tools. Fogged-up safety glasses or goggles can lead to costly mistakes. And heat illnesses can turn a productive day on the job into a stressful trip to the doctor if you're not careful.
How do I protect myself and my team from the heat?
During the summer, the best way to stay safe on the job is to check in regularly with yourself and your team, and know the signs of dangerous heat. All job sites should have a response plan (these are typically required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA) that outlines all the necessary steps workers should take in the event of a heat-related illness or injury.
From there, make sure every member of your team is trained on those response plans and knows what to do if they or a teammate start showing the signs of heat exhaustion.
There are a few helpful ways to protect yourself against a summer heatwave:
- Stay hydrated! The most important factor to summer heat protection is hydration. On the job, workers should be taking frequent breaks to drink water, as well as electrolyte-replacing drinks like sugar-free Gatorade and other "sports" drinks. Just be sure to avoid the versions loaded down with sugar and empty calories, as well as energy drinks and coffee--these can actually dehydrate you more!
- Wear sunscreen. If you work in the sun, or around a lot of reflective surfaces, start your day with a generous coat of sunscreen. Remember to reapply often!
- Invest in protective gear. This includes hats, breathable clothing, and sunglasses or shaded safety glasses. (Pro tip: Our new-and-improved anti-fog collection is perfect for summer job sites!)
- Check in regularly. Keep an eye on your teammates, and ask them to do the same for you. Everyone should know the symptoms of heat illnesses and know how to help a teammate who's suffering from the high temperatures.
What are the symptoms of dangerous heat illnesses?
The most common heat illnesses are heat exhaustion, heat rash, heat cramps, and heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Cool, moist skin
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fast heartbeat
Things get more serious when heat stroke comes into play. This severe, potentially life-threatening heat illness comes with all the signs mentioned above, as well as:
- Excessive sweating or red, hot, dry skin
- A very high body temperature
What are the risks of ignoring the warning signs?
Heat stroke can be extremely dangerous, and can even lead to a person's death if they do not cool down. Because the body's temperature has spiked so hard, the inner workings of our muscles and organs--a process known as homeostasis--get thrown off. Simply put, the brain cannot fulfill its normal duties when it's under duress from high heat.
If you think someone on site has heat stroke, or if a team member loses consciousness, call 911 right away. While waiting for help to arrive, place the person in a cool, shaded area, help them drink water and strip down to light clothing, and apply ice or cool compresses to their forehead and the back of the neck, if you have ice and water on hand.
Here at Bomber Eyewear, we know that a team thrives when its members check in with each other. Keep an eye on your teammates, drink plenty of water, and take breaks when you need it!
Stay cool out there!