Safety Tips for Working in the Heat

The dog days of summer are upon us and working in the extreme heat is not only uncomfortable but dangerous. Extreme heat conditions can lead to cramps, rashes, heat exhaustion, or even heatstroke. Summer. Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) shows thousands of workers become ill due to working in extreme heat every summer. It is crucial to talk about the dangers of heat-related illnesses and how to protect yourself and stay cool in the heat.

Heat-related injuries are preventable. Here are some tips for keeping cool at your work-site this summer:

1. Stay Hydrated

Drink lots of water. Drink two to four cups of water every hour while working.  Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to have a drink, odds are if you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Staying hydrated will help protect you from heat exhaustion and heat-related illnesses; it will also provide the energy you need to get the job done. Cool water should be your go-to source of hydration but sports drinks and juices are also good alongside water as they replenish electrolytes. Avoid caffeine and drinks with high sugars contents such as soda, and energy drinks.

2. Eat right.

Food that is high in fat and preservatives put a high caloric load on your digestive system. In high heat, that will stress the body. Try eating bigger breakfasts and have lighter lunches with fruits and vegetables.

3. Dress accordingly.

Try to wear light-weight, loose-fitting, light-colored, breathable clothing. Clothes made of cotton are more breathable than polyesters or other synthetic materials. Apply sunblock on exposed areas and reapply throughout the day to protect from UV rays and prevent sunburn. Use a sunblock that is water or sweat proof, so you don’t have to reapply as often.

4. Take breaks and encourage others to take breaks.

Don’t skip breaks, utilize the time to hydrate and regain energy. Try to take breaks in shady areas to cool down. Encourage co-workers to take breaks, so they can rest and hydrate.

5. Know the signs and watch out for others.

Keep an eye out on your co-workers for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, and high body temperature.

The most severe form of heat stress is heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s cool down mechanism fails. It can cause death or severe injuries if not treated right away. Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, dry skin, seizures, high body temperatures.

If you notice a co-worker with the symptoms mentioned above:

-Take them to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation and treatment.

-If medical care is unavailable, call 911.

-Someone should stay with worker until help arrives.

-Remove worker from hot area and give liquids to drink.

-Remove unnecessary clothing, including shoes and socks.

-Cool them down with cold compresses or cold water.

[1] U.S. Department of Labor. N.D. “Water, Rest, Shade”, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Accessed online on June 20, 2017, at