Summer Danger: Working in the Heat
Many Canadians will face harsh working conditions this summer with temperatures rising up as high as 40°C. Naturally, the human body is good at maintaining its temperature and preventing overheating by sweating. Extreme temperature, however, can cause your biological cooling mechanism to fail by not being able to keep up with the heat! Getting work done is something that’s expected in any job, regardless of what the temperature is outside. Outdoor work can be physically challenging itself, but combined with high temperatures, it can cause several heat related health issues. It’s extremely important to be prepared for working in heat! You wouldn’t show up at a worksite without the right tools – take care and plan for the heat this summer, too!
Signs of body overheating/heat strokes
Even though we all know what it feels like to be hot, make sure you watch out for these specific signs of overheating/heatstroke, which can be dangerous:
- Heavy sweating
- Weakness and Dizziness
- Extreme thirst
- Rapid breathing and racing pulse
- Vomiting/ Diarrhea
- Muscle cramps
Take a break immediately and stay out of direct sun exposure if you feel any of the symptoms above. Heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke. Heat strokes can be fatal if left without medical attention!
Ways to avoid overheating/heat stroke
Stay hydrated:Drink plenty of cool water with an average of one litre every hour. Drink every 15 to 20 minutes whether or not you feel thirsty. Water is needed to replace the fluid loss from sweating in the heat. Avoid consuming caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
Wear the right clothing: Make sure to wear a hat when you’re exposed to the sun. Cover your body as much as possible with loose-fitting clothes made of a light fabric. Overall head and body coverage is needed to avoid intense sweating and help maintaining your body cooling system stable. Also, it will help avoid sunburn!
Avoid staying outside for too long:Take frequent breaks into a cool or well-ventilated area to get out of a direct sunlight. When working outside, create a temporary shelter and schedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day (early morning, late afternoon).
Protect your skin: Make sure to apply a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF onto all the sun exposed skin areas, especially the face. Keep in mind that sweat can wash away sunscreen or at least reduce the amount of protection it provides, so keep re-applying.
Know your body conditions: Be aware of existing health issues such as obesity, heart problems, compromised immune system (chronic alcoholism, drug addiction) that can lead to higher risks of getting and recovering from a heat stroke. Elderly and kids should take extra precautions when staying outside during high temperatures.
When the temperature gets hot, but the job needs to get done, make sure you arrive at the worksite with a plan for staying healthy. Use as many precautions as possible to keep your body from overheating and never underestimate the seriousness of direct sun exposure and extreme heat, especially when combined with physical activities.
Stay safe out there!
Additional Resources: Ontario.ca