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9 Tips for Working Safely in Hot Weather This Summer

The dog days of summer are in full swing. All across Minnesota, thousands of workers are facing the potential dangers of working outside in extreme heat. Those dangers include:

  • Dehydration
  • Heat stroke
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat cramps
  • Heat rash
  • Heat syncope (dizziness or fainting)
  • On-the-job accidents caused by fogged safety glasses, sweaty hands, confusion, or fatigue while working with dangerous tools or materials

Some of these risks are more serious than others, but none are a walk in the park. So what steps should you take to make sure you stay safe while working outside in the heat of the summer? Here are some handy tips to keep in mind.

How to Stay Safe When Working Outside in Hot Weather

 

1. Stay hydrated.

No matter how active you are, when you’re out in the heat, you need to drink plenty of fluids. Ideally, you should drink lots of water along with Gatorade or some other electrolyte-replacing fluid.

Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink, either. By the time you're aware of your thirst, you could already be dehydrated and experiencing heat-related stress, agitation, and forgetfulness. Drink on a regular schedule—every 15 minutes or so—and try to consume at least 4 cups of water every hour.

2. Be careful about what you eat and drink.

Staying hydrated is important, but some fluids should be avoided. Alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks can promote dehydration and hurt more than they help. You should also steer clear of drinks that are too cold, as those can give you stomach cramps on a hot day.

Food matters, too. Before work, eat smaller meals and avoid high protein foods, since digesting high protein foods makes your body work harder and raises your internal temperature. Try to get some fruits high in fiber or natural juices in your diet.

3. Dress right.

If possible, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. You may be required to wear a certain uniform or certain gear for your job, but as much as you're able, dress for success in hot weather. Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses can also do wonders for protecting against extreme temperatures.

Bonus tip: bring a damp rag to wipe your face or wrap around your neck. Wet it again as often as you can throughout your workday.

4. Wear sunscreen.

Remember how your mom always insisted that you wear sunscreen before heading out to the beach? She knew what she was talking about.

Sunburn hurts your body's ability to cool down and can speed up dehydration. While working outside in high heat, put on a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going out. Then, keep reapplying it according to the package directions.

5. Pace yourself.

As much as possible, slow down and work at an even pace. Know your limits. If you're not used to working in high heat, ease your way in.

If your heart starts pounding and you're gasping for breath, or if you're becoming confused, weak, or lightheaded, head for a shaded or air-conditioned area and sip water. Once you’re able to get back to work, take things a little easier than before. Slow and steady wins the race.

6. Take frequent, regular breaks.

Again, this may be limited by the rules of your job, but as much as you can, take frequent breaks someplace cool and out of direct sunlight.

If your employer isn't providing the breaks you need to work safely, that's a big problem. Don't just shrug it off if you think your workplace is requiring you to endanger yourself. Find out your rights and make sure you’re getting the protection you deserve.

7. Be aware of the weather.

If you're going to be working outside, make sure to monitor the weather and heat index. It always pays to be prepared. The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety App can help you calculate the heat index of your worksite, determine the risk level to workers, and know which precautions to take. 

8. Learn the signs of heat-related illnesses.

Study the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or dehydration, and know how to respond if they show up for you or a coworker. You never know what might happen, so always be ready.

9. Use a buddy system.

If your coworkers will be working with you outside, partner up with someone to keep tabs on each other. If any symptoms show up, you might already be too impaired to recognize them, so you'll want someone who can keep an eye on you—and vice versa.

Watch out for each other and try to make sure everyone else is doing the same.

Stay safe out there!

If you're an employee, some of these precautions may be out of your hands. For example, your boss will have some say in how many breaks you can take, what you can wear, or how much you can pace yourself.

But with these tips in hand, you should be better prepared to face the risks of working outside this summer.

If you’ve already suffered a heat-related illness or injury due to an unsafe working environment, you might be entitled to compensation. SiebenCarey has represented thousands of clients as Minnesota's original “Know Your Rights” personal injury law firm.

Just let us know how we can help you, and we'll walk you through your rights and discuss your options and potential compensation. Click here to get in touch.

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