Summer is here! When you walk outside in the middle of the day with the sun high in the sky you can feel the heat just beating on you. As a construction company operating in North Texas, many of our projects are outside which places another level of safety we have to look out for with our employees. Especially being in Texas where the heat is more intense than in many other states in the country.
I think it’s important to share some tips on how to safely work or even play outside in these high temperatures this time of year.
I don’t think this could be said enough. Drink plenty of water, especially before you head out. It is best to start hydrating several hours before you plan on doing any outdoor activities. I drink plenty of water in the evenings and before bed, but It is good to drink water as soon as you get up in the morning too. This gets your body fully hydrated and ready to perform. When you sweat you are losing a lot more fluid than you realize. Be cognitive of your fluid intakes throughout the entire day.
- Start Early
Start your outdoor activities early in the morning. Try to get the most strenuous labor done before it gets to the heat of the day (typically between 2-6 PM). It starts getting light here in north Texas around 6 AM. We start our day here at Wannco at 7 AM. While not everyone is a fan of starting early, it’s actually the most considerate way to operate. It gives us time to get most of our work done before lunch. Starting early also gives your body time to get acclimated to the rising temperature. Going from a cool air-conditioned environment into 100+ degree temperatures makes it feel even hotter.
- Wear Appropriate Attire
Wearing lightweight loose-fitting clothing helps keep you cooler. Strange as it may sound, long sleeves actually help you stay cooler. The long sleeves shade your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Go stand in the sun for a while, then move into a shaded area. Feels much cooler, doesn’t it? Invest in some clothing made from fabric that is made specifically to help you when you’re in the sun. The fabric absorbs sweat. Then, when the air blows across the wet fabric it cools you down. Longsleeve clothing will also protect your skin from too much sun damage that can cause skin cancer. Sunblock can wear off quickly when you sweat, covering your skin is optimal protection.
- Wear a Hat
Wearing a hat when you are outdoors will help keep you cool. Preferably a hat with a large brim, (like a straw Cowboy hat). The hat will keep the sun off of your head, face, and neck. This is important because your brain is in your head. If your head gets too hot you can have serious health problems. Major blood vessels run through the neck and into the head. The shade from the hat helps keep the area cooler so the blood can cool down. Also, similar to wearing long sleeve clothing, a hat will protect exposed skin from the damaging sun rays that can cause skin cancer.
- Stay Hydrated
While drinking plenty of fluid before and after activities is important you still need to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Try not to keep your water ice cold too. Cool water is best. When the temperatures reach 100°+ try to take short water breaks every 15 to 20 minutes. That’s only 3 or 4 times in an hour. This will ensure that you are staying properly hydrated. Even when you are not sweating your body loses water through your breath. Plus, in parts of Texas with the dry heat, you don’t realize how much you are sweating because it absorbs quicker than in humid climates. It is also good to have a sports drink or something to help replace your electrolytes. I would recommend one such drink during the morning break and one after mid-daybreak.
- Eat Light
When taking lunch eat light. Eating a big heavy greasy meal will oftentimes make you feel sick in the extreme heat of the day. I recommend things like fruit, salads, granola, smoothies, etc., or be cognitive of portion control. Opt for things like a half sandwich instead of a big meal. I think it’s best to eat a little throughout the day as opposed to eating one large meal. This will also help keep your energy up.
Understanding Heat Exhaustion
Be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. It is important to know when you are nearing heat exhaustion. It can be a very dangerous situation if not treated quickly. Here is a list of the symptoms to be cognitive of:
- Heavy sweating
- Cold, pale, clammy skin
- Fast weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
- Tiredness or weakness
If you are feeling any of the symptoms above do not try to tough it out, act accordingly:
- Immediately find a shady spot and sit down.
- Loosen up your clothing.
- Find some water to wet your clothes to cool down.
- Run water over your wrists and neck.
- Sip on water or a sports drink.
If the symptoms persist for more than an hour seek medical attention. Heat exhaustion is a very serious situation. It can even become fatal if not addressed.
These are just a few tips I have learned over the last twenty-four years in the construction industry. I have had heat-related illnesses several times throughout my career. I learned the hard way about the dangers of the summer heat. However, if precautions are taken and you are aware of the symptoms, it’s easy to prevent this from happening to you.