Summer is finally rearing its head. Temperatures are rising, the sun is shining and it’s a great time to be outside. However, even if you love being out in the sun, working outside in extreme heat can be incredibly dangerous and can even lead to on-the-job accidents. Don’t think you’re safe if you live further north, either! Extreme heat isn’t reserved for those working in tropical climates. And as the temperatures heat up it could be a long, dangerous summer for workers.
There are many health problems that can arise through heat and sun exposure. Fainting, dehydration, heat stroke, heat rash and heat exhaustion are just a few of the problems that can show themselves when outside in the heat for too long. The key to avoiding issues like these, then, is to understand why they happen – and to get the answers you need about safety in the heat before heading out to work:
Question 1: How hot is too hot to be outside?
That depends upon a couple of factors. The type of work that is being done is one of the most important aspects to consider. If heavy physical labor is being done, then it’s not safe to be outside in the sun for very long. Another factor is your physical fitness. The more physically fit someone is, the longer they will be able to stand labor intensive work out in the heat. Normally, our bodies attempt to keep our internal core temperatures at around 98.6 degrees. That means that we are able to comfortably work in temperatures of about 73 degrees without feeling too fatigued. However, this temperature could be lower if the labor performed is physically demanding.
Question 2: What can be done to stay safe?
There are many easy ways to keep yourself protected from the sun and the heat on sunny days, including:
- Start early in the day. The early hours are cooler and the sun hasn’t reached its peak yet so the air is cooler and the sun not as harsh.
- Work in the shade if possible. If you cannot, take short frequent breaks in the shade to refresh.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and a hat! Use a sunblock with at least SPF 30 for the most effectiveness.
- Wear loose long sleeves to protect yourself from getting sunburn. The loose fabric will still allow for air circulation.
- Stick to wearing light colors that reflect the sun. Dark colors like black and blue will absorb the sunlight and cause you to heat up faster.
- Take breaks for water frequently. Stick to cool water instead of ice cold water.
- For more tips head to OSHA’s website.
It’s best to avoid being out in the extreme heat for long stretches of time. If you must be out in the heat, remember to stay hydrated and dress smart. Heat related injuries are serious and in some cases deadly. Staying safe in the heat is simple and with the right precautions you can protect yourself from the dangers of the sun exposure.