Staying Safe While Working in the Summer Sun
Summer means a lot of things to a lot of people. For students, school's out, and it's time for summer camp and pool parties. For families, it's time to schedule vacations — road trips to the beach or even journeys overseas. For some workers, though, summer can mean hot, humid days under an unforgiving sun.
In the summer, outdoor laborers face the risk of becoming sick from the heat. Heat exposure can have dangerous and even fatal effects on workers. As a result, it's important to prevent overheating and respond appropriately when it happens.
What Causes Heat-Related Illnesses?
Heat-related illnesses occur when your body cannot keep your body temperature stable.
Normally, your body regulates its temperature through blood flow and sweat. The average body temperature is 98.6° F (37° C); when the outside temperature rises above that, the body has trouble cooling itself. High humidity can prevent your sweat from evaporating, and the high temperature can prevent your blood from dispelling heat.
When this happens, your core temperature and heart rate rise. If this begins to happen, you should find a way to cool down.
Symptoms of a Heat Illness
The U.S. Center for Disease Control identifies the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. These can include:
Inability to concentrate
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Unwillingness to drink
Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
You should get medical help right away if you throw up, have symptoms that last longer than an hour, or experience symptoms of heat stroke.
Preventing a Heat-Related Illness
OSHA recommends taking safety precautions whenever the heat index rises above 91° F (32° C). According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are three cornerstones to heat safety: water, rest, and shade.
OSHA recommends frequently drinking small amounts of water to prevent dehydration. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol when working in high temperatures.
Work rest cycles into your day. Schedule heavier tasks for cooler times of the day. Try to spread the heaviest tasks throughout the day instead of doing them all at once.
Allow your body to cool down by moving to shaded areas.
Employers should have an emergency plan in case a heat-related illness occurs. They can also implement strategies to prevent heat-related illnesses. For example, installing cooling systems, like air conditioning or fans; issuing personal protective equipment, like insulated or reflective clothing; and training workers to prevent and detect a heat-related illness can help mitigate the effect of heat on your health.
NJM Insurance Group is a leading provider of workers' compensation insurance in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, and New York. NJM provides resources to aid policyholders in their loss prevention efforts. If an injury or illness does occur, NJM’s workers’ compensation team will manage the injured worker’s care. Learn more about workers' compensation insurance.