For those whose jobs require them to work outside – electric utility, oil and gas, and other industry workers – it’s not all “fun in the sun” during the summer months. Our summer safety blog series covers insect-repelling FR clothing and thunderstorm safety. In this post, we’re sharing some of the risks associated with working outdoors in high temperatures and how to avoid heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.
Staying cool during the summer months can be challenging for anyone, but especially for those who are required to work outside for extended periods of time. According to OSHA, every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions1. If you are exposed to high heat on the job, you should be aware of the potential hazards you face – these include heat stress, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other heat-related health issues like dizziness, headache, sweaty skin, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and cramps.
Heat stroke is the most serious risk for those who work outside during the summer and should be treated as a medical emergency. Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer control its own temperature, leading to damage of the brain and other internal organs. If emergency treatment is not provided, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or even death.
Heat stroke often occurs as a progression from a milder heat-related illness. The telltale sign that someone is suffering from heat stroke is when their core body temperature has risen above 105 degrees. Other symptoms of heat stroke include nausea, seizures, confusion, disorientation and sometimes loss of consciousness or even a comatose state. What can you do to make sure you avoid heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses that could lead to heat stroke?
The best way to beat the heat in summer is to dress appropriately. This can be hard to do when your job requires you to wear certain safety garments like flame resistant (FR) clothing. However, today’s FR clothing has come a long way from the stiff, boxy, and hot FR clothing of the past, thanks to fabric innovations that allow garments to be lighter weight and more breathable.
If you are required to wear FR clothing outside in hot temperatures – always remain vigilant about compliance. It can be tempting to want to alter clothing or remove extra layers but remember – FR clothing doesn’t protect you unless it’s worn and worn properly. That said, it is especially important for you to select garments that you find comfortable – if you’re in a Tyndale-managed program, you can reference the detailed product descriptions in your online catalog and user-generated ratings and reviews from your peers – and keep the following safety tips in mind.
The two main types of heat exhaustion are water depletion and salt depletion. To avoid becoming dehydrated – which can lead to more serious heat-related illnesses – make sure you drink every 15 minutes, even if you aren’t thirsty. It’s best to avoid drinks that are high in caffeine or sugar.
Your body is already working hard just to cool off, so it’s important not to overdo it. Take frequent breaks by limiting exposure (resting in the shade) and stay hydrated. This is particularly important if you already suffer from preexisting ailments, such as high blood pressure.
Depending on your location, the feeling of heat you get from high temperatures can vary. In drier climates, like the southwestern part of the United States, it might feel hot but not overwhelmingly so. In states where there is more moisture in the air (humidity), 95 degrees can really feel well over 100 degrees. Regardless of where you work, a dry or humid climate, if it’s a warm day and you’re exposed to the elements, make sure you are drinking plenty of water, taking breaks in the shade, and following the other tips outlined in this post.
It’s hard to properly identify symptoms when you don’t know what exactly to look for. Be aware of other coworkers’ conditions and know where you are working in case you need to call 911. Common symptoms of heat stress include:
For additional information check out OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool mobile app to calculate the heat index for your location and receive reminders about how to prevent heat stress on the job.
Tyndale’s managed apparel program features an automated company-funded program that provides each employee with an annual allowance or allotment from which employees can purchase a preferred combination of company-approved FR clothing. Our choice program allows workers to shop from a variety of FR clothing styles and fabrics – including garments that are lightweight and comfortable to wear in the summer months – driving end-user satisfaction, comfort, and compliance. Contact us today to learn more about our unique solution.