Heat. Heat everywhere. Summer signals a time of heat and at times during the season, extreme heat. And if you’re working outdoors, you are at a higher risk of overheating. Roof work, construction, and any other industrial site that are outdoors are hot environments that can exacerbate overheating. During times of extraordinarily hot weather, it’s important to put safety as high priority. Why? Because the cost of overheating is not pretty.
Fortunately, we have all the essential tips to reduce overheating when working outside. We understand many occupations that involve outdoor work cannot simply be put to a halt. Knowing the ways you can protect yourself in the hot heat though will keep you both safe and productive.
Why Is it Important to Keep Cool?
The human body maintains a temperature of about 37°C. When the external temperature is high and your body is overexposed to the heat, the body must work to keep the core temperature to 37°C. If your body is unable to regulate itself and keep itself cool by sweating (your cooling mechanism) and your core body temperature remains high, you go through heat stress. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are more serious conditions than heat stress and can be fatal.
Know the Signs for Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
Extreme heat is a health risk that can result in heat-related illnesses, namely heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Based on the CDC, symptoms from heat stroke are:
- Extremely high body temperature
- Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
- Rapid, strong pulse
- Throbbing headache
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
If you or anyone around you are experiencing these symptoms, visit CDC to learn more about the proper measures to take.
Although heat illness can be scary, the good news is that it can be preventable. Aside from proper heat safety and heat stress prevention programs at the workplace, we have a list of tips to help keep risk of heat-related illnesses at a low.
15 Tips to Help Beat Heat Stress
1. Stay Hydrated. Seriously.
The best way to describe the importance of hydration is thinking of our body as an air conditioner. Once your body starts to heat up, your internal air conditioner kicks in and you start sweating. Now that your air conditioner is activated by using its coolant (your sweat), you need to start refilling the tank – that means drinking more H2O.
Proper hydration helps reduce fatigue and improves endurance. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water before you start the day and regularly throughout the day – drink frequently within each hour, with a total of two to four glasses per hour. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as they do the opposite, which dehydrates you. More on that later.
Bringing a water bottle to your job and refilling it is the best way to remind yourself to keep fluids in your body. Stainless steel bottles or other bottles that retain cold water temperature inside are great in keeping your water cool and refreshing throughout the workday. Alternatively, there is science behind drinking warm water to help accelerate your body from producing sweat. Whatever your preference is, ensure you keep yourself regularly hydrated and keep a bottle of water by your side. It’s your best friend in the summer.
2. Apply Sunscreen
Heat means the sun is out and you very much want to avoid sunburn. You’re likely not wearing a parka during the summer heat, so you want to be protecting your skin that’s exposed from the sun. Be especially attentive to your most burn-prone areas, such as your nose, ears and back of your neck. Make sure to apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on exposed skin and reapply every two hours. Your sweat can also wash away sunscreen or reduce its protection, so make sure you’re always reapplying throughout the day.
3. Dress Light
In addition to wearing sunscreen, wearing appropriate attire can help keep you protected from the rays. If your worksite permits, wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing and a wide brimmed hat to protect your head. Certain fabric and technology can also wick away heat and moisture.
4. Take Breaks
Remember, safety is just as important as productivity. We all know you want to keep productivity levels high by working hard, but it’s important to also work smart and take the necessary breaks to avoid heat stress when temperatures are high. If you’re working on projects that allow you to rotate between your crew, make sure that’s done so that everyone is given a break from the sun.
5. Find Shade
Take cover! Literally. We told you extreme heat is a health risk, so having tents, shelters, or cooling stations to take cover will help keep you going throughout the day. Take your breaks in shaded areas, and if possible, try to do your tasks in shaded areas. No shade? No problem. Shaded areas can be created with something as simple as an umbrella, or as mentioned before, a hat to protect your face.
6. Minimize UV Reflection and Heat from Work Surfaces
Certain work surfaces, such as metal, can become quite hot when the sun is out. And bright and shiny surfaces can reflect UV rays. Make sure to keep these materials out of direct sunlight until you’re ready to install them or alternatively, you can cover them.
7. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Keep caffeine consumption a low. Drinking an excessive amount of caffeine can lead to dehydration. Remember, that’s not just coffee – energy drinks also have caffeine. The same goes for alcohol, which also has dehydrating effects. So when you’re going to happy hour or kicking it at the pub after a long, hot day at work, don’t overdo it. Your body won’t be too happy the next day when you show up to work.
Drinks that can replenish lost electrolytes work but be careful of those that’s packed with sugar or empty carbohydrates. It goes without saying, and important to repeat, water is your best choice during the hot heat.
8. Eat Lighter
Skip the heavy burrito or burger for lunch during a hot day. In hot weather, your body will work best when consuming leafy greens, fresh fruit and nuts to replenish your electrolytes, and water-rich foods, such as celery, cucumbers, lettuce, and watermelon, to keep you hydrated. Fatty, fried, and heavy meals, especially protein-rich meats, forces your body to work overtime and use more metabolic heat to break down heavy foods. Eating more frequent but lighter meals and snacks throughout the day will also give your digestive system a break.
9. Alternatively, Go Spicy
People living in hotter climates, such as Central and South America, Caribbean, Africa, Southeast Asia, and India, know what’s up when it comes to eating food in hot weather – they fight fire with fire by eating spicy food! Although you may initially be scratching your head on this one, there’s science to this. Spicy food can cool you down, as the heat from spicy food causes your blood circulation to rise, which then causes you to sweat. And as mentioned, sweating is a human’s cooling mechanism. So next time you’re prepping your salad, don’t be afraid to spice it up and throw in some chili peppers!
10. Prioritize and Pace Yourself
Part of working smart is not just taking your necessary breaks, but also prioritizing the tasks that can be done before the sun is blaring hot. If possible, allot your mornings to the most demanding tasks and get those out of the way when it’s less hot. That way, when facing the scorching heat in the later half of the day (usually the hottest at 3-6 PM), you won’t have to needlessly expend a lot of energy, as you got all of the heavy lifting done in the morning.
11. Adjust Your Schedule
If your workplace allows flexibility in your schedule, then consider starting earlier in the day. An earlier start would mean enduring less heat in your overall workday, as you’ll be working a decent part of your shift when it’s the coolest. Alternatively, starting much later where you can work during the cooler part of the evening also works well.
12. Cool Your Pulse Points with Spritzing or Ice
Give yourself a simple spray with a spray bottle or dribble water from your bottle to take some of the heat off you. You can also get yourself an ice bucket with water and ice to use throughout the day. When you’re cooling yourself with water, aim for the pulse points, which includes:
- Insides of elbows and knees
- Top of your feet
- Insides of your ankles
- Inner thighs
- In front of your ears
Pulse points are areas where blood circulates more closely to the skin. Cooling off these points will more efficiently cool off your blood, and thus, lowering your body temperature.
13. Use a Damp Towel
A damp towel you can put around your neck is a great way to keep yourself cool throughout the workday. Not only does it keep you cool but also protects your neck from UV rays. Don’t forget to also cool your pulse points with your damp towel. Keep it cool by soaking it in your ice bucket or wrapping it around an ice pack.
14. Set Up a Fan
Although you can’t get an air conditioner outdoors, you can still get some relief on the worksite by setting up an industrial-grade work fan in your work or rest area (or both!). You’ll feel cooler with the added airflow and with your sweat evaporating quicker.
15. Wear Breathable Gloves
A lot of industrial work requires gloves to keep your most important assets (your hands) protected. And we all know how uncomfortable gloves can be during the hot summer heat. 336 Stealth Vapor and 318 Cool It are both made of Kool Knit™ performance yarn that wicks away moisture and sweat from your hands. They’re extraordinarily comfortable and also provide excellent grip in dry and wet conditions. 025 Overtime and 198 Fresh Air have an air-flow mesh back to keep hands cool and comfortable and are also great glove options when working in hot climates.
Protect Yourself from the Heat When Working Outside
Safety is a top priority in any industrial worksite, and heat safety is no different. To minimize heat stress and heat-related illnesses, it’s important that heat safety education, guidelines, and programs are understood and practiced at the worksite. Along with that, following these 15 essential tips will help you keep your cool while working in the heat.
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