Summer Safety: Heat Related Illness

As of last week, the greater New York City area has already seen two official heat waves, and the summer has only just begun.  

Unfortunately, people who work outdoors like those in the AEC industries are at exponential risk for a host of illnesses brought on by excessive heat exposure. Add in factors such as age, health conditions, medications, and dehydration, and it is easy to see why “more than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry” (data from OSHA).

Of course, we cannot control the weather, but we can control what we do to protect ourselves from the scorching summer heat. Following are some tips that will help you to work safely in the extreme heat.

Always wear sunscreen, preferably with an SPF of at least 30, and do not forget to protect your face. If possible, wear a neck protector that can attach to your hard hat; take frequent breaks in shaded areas; wear lightweight, light colored clothing; try to perform strenuous work in the early morning hours when temperatures tend to be a bit lower; and watch out for the symptoms of heat illness in yourself, and others. But perhaps the most important way to protect yourself from heat-related illnesses during the summer is to stay hydrated. You can do this by drinking water–not soda, coffee, or other beverages.

Even taking all precautions, you may still be striken by one of the three types of heat illnesses. They are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. All of these are serious and require attention. Each can present with a variety of indicators like dizziness, fainting, confusion, irritability, thirst, or nausea.

If you or someone else is showing these symptoms, take the necessary steps to get help. Do not ignore the signs that medical assistance may be needed as heat illnesses have proven to be fatal for some.

Whenever possible, reinforce the message of heat-related illnesses. Another valuable tool to stay safe in the extreme heat is the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool. This is an app that you can download on your phone. It will allow you to calculate the heat index outside. You can follow this link to download the app onto your mobile device. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html

By being aware of temperatures and staying prepared, we can all make it through the summer healthy and happy.

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