For workers who spend their days outside, the summer months can bring weather-related challenges. Heat and humidity can make working outside difficult and sometimes dangerous. Summer also means increased sun exposure which can result in painful sunburns. Sometimes work can be brought inside, but often being indoors isn’t an option for construction workers, camp counselors, lifeguards, and more.
Heat and sun issues
There are many heat-related illnesses. The most serious is heat stroke, which occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. People experiencing heat stroke suffer confusion, loss of consciousness, hot and dry skin, and/or profuse sweating. It can be fatal if not treated. Other less serious heat-related illnesses include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash. Sunburn is a common issue caused by too much sun exposure which can result in red and tender skin and sometimes painful peeling and blisters. Repeated sunburns increase a person’s risk for skin cancer.
Keeping workers safe from the sun can be as simple as encouraging them to wear sunscreen and re-apply it throughout their time outside. Employees can also protect their skin with clothing. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has many recommendations for keeping workers safe from the heat and even has a heat stress app. Here are several things you can do to help protect your workers:
- Limit time in the heat and/or increase recovery time spent in a cool environment.
- Increase the number of workers per task.
- Train supervisors and workers on heat stress.
- Provide adequate amounts of cool, potable drinking water and encourage workers to stay hydrated.
- Institute a heat acclimatization plan and increase physical fitness.
- Permit rest and water breaks when a worker feels heat discomfort.
Taking a few easy steps can help employers protect their outdoor workers from heat and sun exposure during the hot summer months.