Loss Control Insights for Contractors
Working in Extreme Heat: 5 Things You Didn't Know (Updated June 2022)
We all know the standard advice for working outside during the summer: take frequent breaks in the shade, drink lots of fluids and wear sunscreen.
Since you already know the basics, here are some lesser-known facts about working in the summer heat and some tips for avoiding heat illness.
Some Workers are More Likely to Be Affected By Hot Weather
Any of your employees can sustain a heat-induced illness under the right conditions, but there are certain people who are more vulnerable and may need to take extra precautions.
These include people who have high blood pressure or heart disease, are overweight, have a previous history of heat-related illness or those who take allergy medication, decongestants or blood pressure medication.
Some Fluids Are Better At Preventing Dehydration When Working Outside
During hot weather, outdoor workers are commonly advised to drink lots of fluids to avoid dehydration. But did you know that very sugary drinks (like soda) and beverages containing alcohol or caffeine can actually cause you to lose more body fluid?
Temperature is a factor, too, because drinking very cold liquid can cause stomach cramps. OSHA recommends drinking small amounts of cool water frequently.
You May Actually Need More Salt While Working In Extreme Heat
Heavy sweating can deplete the salts and minerals your body needs to function.
You can replace these with a sports drink, though the electrolytes you get through regular meals and snacks will usually do the trick as well (talk with your doctor if you are on a low-salt diet).
Heat Illness May Take Workers by Surprise
Heat-related illness can cause confusion and poor judgement, so employees may not realize they are getting sick.
Monitor your workers during extreme heat and make sure all employees know the symptoms of heat-induced illnesses so they can help keep an eye on each other:
Symptoms Of Heat Stroke
- High body temperature
- Hot, red, dry or damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Losing consciousness
Symptoms Of Heat Exhaustion
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, clammy skin
- Fast, week pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Tiredness or weakness
Symptoms Of Heat Cramps
- Heavy sweating during intense exercise
- Muscle pain or spasms
What To Do If Heat Illness Strikes
If you or an employee notice the symptoms of severe heat illness (confusion, vomiting or loss of consciousness), it’s important to act immediately.
- Call 911
- Move the person to a cooler location
- Do your best to reduce the person’s body temperature by applying cool cloths or wetting their clothing
For less severe symptoms, OSHA recommends:
- Stopping physical activity and moving to a cool place
- Loosening clothes
- Applying cool, wet cloths
- Sipping water or a sports drink