With summer just around the corner, it’s important to remember that heat stroke takes many lives every year, especially for those spending a substantial amount of time outside, such as construction workers, park rangers, or farm workers. Many have no choice but to spend many hours under a hot sun, but there are many steps you can take to stay cool and keep well-hydrated no matter the work environment.
THE DANGER OF HEAT STROKE
For some, there are substantial risk factors that can increase your chance of suffering from a heat-related illness. These risk factors include exposure to direct sunlight, additional sources of heat (such as nearby ovens, hot engines or manufacturing kilns), reduced air flow, increased physical activity, heavy protective clothing or machinery, your physical condition, humidity levels, and a person’s age (especially 65 and over). Speaking with a doctor or healthcare professional is the best way to determine your specific risk factors. Also be aware that certain medication can make you more susceptible to heat illnesses, as well as ingesting alcohol or caffeine.
The summer heat can lead to sweating, the natural biological reaction to cool your core body temperature. However, the loss of water when you sweat also means your losing important electrolytes. These electrolytes are forms of salt such as sodium, potassium and chloride, all important elements to keep your body functioning. As a result, it’s important to stay hydrated before symptoms of heat stroke take hold.
If you’re performing physical activity in moderate heat, you should have about one cup of water every 20 minutes. If you’re doing highly strenuous activity or working in very high temperatures, you should think about drinking a cup every 10 to 15 minutes. Sports drinks are not necessary for obtaining electrolytes. By eating regular meals and having a salty snack from time to time, you should be able to maintain all your electrolyte requirements.
Employers may provide urine color charts at certain locations on a jobsite to help workers gauge the threat of dehydration. Clear urine usually indicates a worker is receiving enough water to avoid any sort of heat illness, while darker urine indicates workers are not drinking enough water.
Staying Cool in Summer Heat
Whenever you’re physically active, your body is producing heat that can quickly overwhelm you. As a result, it’s essential to take certain steps to cool down your body before a problem arises. For one, when wearing lightweight and light colored clothing helps reduce heat absorption since light colors reflect the sun’s rays. Taking plenty of breaks in an air-conditioned room or an area with plenty of shade also cools your body and helps maintain a normal body temperature.
Examining the weather forecast and tracking temperatures and weather conditions help employers and workers alike make appropriate decisions for determining if outdoor work is safe. If at all possible, work should be rescheduled for a time when temperatures are less extreme. Another great idea is to use work vests that have pockets for placing cold packs. Keeping a cooler on hand stocked with cold water so that workers can have a quick drink or even pour water on their body will help reduce temperatures as well.
Just remember: heat stroke is a real danger. By following a few simple safety precautions and using some of the tips from this article, everyone can help prevent heat stroke and maintain a safe jobsite.