Just being outside during extreme heat can be hazardous to one’s health, but working in extreme heat is another story.
There are several things employers and employees can do to stay out of the direct sunlight when the mercury rises and if you do have to work outside steps can be taken to limit exposure and minimize the chance of sunburn or sunstroke.
The first thing you can do is to not work in the sun if it can be avoided. Lighter duties can be found in many workplaces on hot days. However, if that’s not an option workers can share the workload limiting the time they spend in the direct sunlight. Sunscreen will protect the skin from sunburns and duties outside can be performed early in the morning to avoid the peak hours of sunlight and heat in the early and mid-afternoons.
Drinking water puts back the liquids we loose from sweat back into our bodies. Health Canada suggests that workers drink 750 milliliters of water every hour to replace these lost fluids. Light clothing such as polyesters allow the skin to breath more therefore reducing the amount we sweat. Wearing lighter colour clothing also attract less heat than darker colors.
If possible workers should find a shaded and ventilated area to work in. If natural breezes are not available fans are a source of cool airflow that can greatly reduce body temperature. Also by turning off any unneeded lights will lower the temperature and save electricity, which is stressed to the maximum during the summer months.
For those workers that are required to wear hardhats while on duty special headbands are available that can be filled up with water and fit around the safety cage. This headband will cool the worker and reduce the amount of sweat dripping into his or her eyes and face. For those that require hearing protection earplugs that fit into the ear keep the head cooler than earmuffs that fit around the ear.
Employers get creative to get their employees out of a scorching environment by holding safety meetings or providing computer-training sessions. These options won’t work at all workplaces and jobs but employers should try and keep their workers out of the sun as much as possible.
These ideas look great on paper but the bottom line is that the work still has to be done. Some jobsites do not have the luxury of fans, air conditioning or even shade. Deadlines have to be met and things cannot just come to a halt just because Mother Nature decides to blast out the heat. Workers know what they are capable of and must also know their physical limitations. Machines running add to the temperature so it is the duty of employers and employees alike to find ways keep the jobsite safe during the summer months and keep work related heat dangers to a minimum.
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