If you’re an outdoor worker, you know summer has arrived—and it’s hot out there. While everyone needs to be mindful when working or playing outdoors, those who have jobs that keep them out in the sun and heat all day need to know how to work safely in the summer heat and what precautions to take against excessive exposure to sun, heat and bug bites during the summer months.
Here are a few tips for staying safe and healthy while working in the heat outdoors this summer.
Avoiding Tick Bites
If you’re working in tall grass or wooded areas, take the following precautions to protect yourself from ticks:
- Wear light-colored clothing to see ticks more easily.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants.
- Tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
- Wear high boots or closed shoes that cover your feet completely.
- Wear a hat.
- Use tick repellants, but not on your face.
- Wash and dry your work clothes at high temperatures.
Examine your body for ticks after work. Remove any attached ticks promptly with a tweezers. In some regions, ticks may transmit Lyme disease. If you get bit and develop a rash, see your doctor.
Insect Bites and Stings
Bee, wasp, hornet and yellow jacket stings are typically only dangerous to those who are allergic or have been stung multiple times.
- Wear bug repellant.
- Avoid wearing heavy perfumes or scented lotions.
Check before drinking from cups, bottles or cans. Stinging insects are attracted to sweet drinks.
To protect against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays:
- Cover up. Wear lightweight, tightly woven clothing that you can’t see through.
- Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays. SPF 30 is even better. Be sure to follow application directions.
- Wear a hat. It should protect your neck, ears, forehead, nose and scalp.
- Wear UV-absorbent shades. Sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Before you buy, read the product label.
The combination of heat and humidity can be a serious health threat during the summer months. To beat the heat:
- Drink plenty of water before you get thirsty.
- Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as dry-fit material.
- Eat smaller meals before work activity.
- Skip the caffeine and soda; drink water instead.
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. You can find them here.
Be aware that equipment such as respirators or work suits can increase heat stress.
Understanding & Avoiding Dehydration
In the simplest terms, dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. Staying hydrated is important to keep all your body functions running smoothly. Whenever you are working outdoors or in warm environments, you’ll want to take extra precautions as summer heats up.
On average, adults lose almost 10 cups of water a day simply by sweating, breathing and going to the bathroom. Along with water, you also lose electrolytes, which are vital because they help maintain the balance of fluids in the body. When you become dehydrated, your body cannot function, possibly resulting in heat stroke or even death.
How do you know if you’re dehydrated? You’ll begin to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Sleepiness or tiredness
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
If you start to notice these warning signs, do not ignore them! Immediately take a break and give yourself time to recover.
The best defense against dehydration is prevention. That sounds easy enough—consume lots of fluids and foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables—but determining how much fluid can be complicated.
Unfortunately, determining appropriate water intake isn’t an exact science, especially because so much depends on age, physical condition, activity level, location and body chemistry. The best overall approach is to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated, and continue drinking even if you don’t feel thirsty. In hot weather, skip coffee or soda, and make water your beverage of choice.
During periods of heavy exertion, take frequent water breaks. Adjust your intake to match your activity level and working conditions to stay healthy and alert.
There are many things you can do to keep yourself and your employees safe during the summer months. To receive this article in a handy packet of printable flyers you can share with your staff, click here to request them. Please include “summer safety packet” in the comments section.