Decreasing Incident from Increasing Temperatures

Anyone venturing away from the delights of air conditioning can recognize the onset of summer. No one knows it better than those who earn a living in the great outdoors. With increased temperatures comes an increased chance of heat-related illness. Depending on the severity, various stages of illness can rear their ugly heads. Taking the necessary precautions, and utilizing proper job planning methods, can make the difference in successfully preventing incidents brought on by the heat.
Keep Cool
Probably the most popular step in beating the heat is to wear lightweight clothing. While shorts, t-shirts, and sandals can help at a family barbeque, they more than likely will fail to meet requirements in the workplace. For many, fire retardant clothing is a hefty reality, but there are some lighter-weight options available. Company and customer policy will dictate their usage and if they meet standards.
Other actions can be taken to cool the masses. Fans can be strategically spaced in the working area to move air and help reduce the effects of high temperatures. Pairing this potential with good time management skills can have a winning effect. Plan out the workday and if some task needs to be performed outdoors or in direct sunlight, make an attempt to do it early in the morning or later in the day. This way, the workforce can avoid those times of the day when the heat is at its worst.
Shade breaks and sunscreen are excellent ways to combat the heat. Heat exposure feels even worse, coupled with a sunburn. Applying sunscreen at different times during the day can eliminate that problem. Completing work tasks under shade breaks can reduce the exposure to direct sunlight and provide a lower felt temperature.
Hydrate and Hydrate Some More
Hydration is not just the simple task of downing a bottle of water when thirsty. Instead, it should be a planned process mimicking that of defense maneuvering in a combat strategy. Heat illness can prevail should a person wait to drink fluids when they are thirsty.
No matter your level of activity, drink a surplus of fluids unless directed otherwise by a doctor. For coffee connoisseurs and energy drink lovers, trade out for a bottle of H2O or sports supplement. Sugary drinks and alcoholic beverages are on the “No Go” list as well. These can actually cause the loss of fluids. Additionally, refrain from intaking very cold water or sports drinks as their temperature can cause stomach cramping.
A sports drink should be added to the hydration regimen. As heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body, the sports supplement can serve as a replacement. It is important to remember that individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, and those on a low salt diet should consult with a physician before adding these liquid beverages to their hydration plans.
Information is Power
Being informed is paramount when it comes to managing heat stress. Viewing the nightly weather forecast and subscribing to weather apps can all provide information and alerts of approaching heat waves. Additionally, these sources normally provide tips to beat the heat.
Provisions can be made to inform the workforce of dangerous conditions. Urine color charts can be posted in company restrooms to communicate the signs of dehydration. Various entities provide tips for preventing heat illness. This information can be printed and posted in workplace common areas.
Continual coaching through safety meetings, safety alerts, and in the field can make a huge difference in fighting hazardous heat conditions. This serves as an excellent way to spread knowledge in the field. Employees who are informed by the employer become focused on what to look for in the work environment.  Arming the workforce with heat-prevention knowledge can have a branching out effect. Employees who are informed can now be capable of identifying the signs of heat illness onset and take the steps necessary to combat its hazardous outcome. When everyone returns home healthy at the end of the day, it is a win for the entire company.
Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with eight years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and follows and photographs American Kennel Club field and herding trials. Nick has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188


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