As we roll through the “dog days” of summer, we seem to forget the brutal cold a mere 5 months ago and wish for a rush to winter. Minus 50 degrees. Let that sink in for a moment. Let’s enjoy the warmth while we have it. Summer heat can be uncomfortable and make certain tasks unbearable, but we can pick up tools and operate machinery without gloves, and a quick jaunt to a store or gas station and we can forget the sweltering heat outside for a moment. We recognize the heat is not only uncomfortable but can be quite dangerous to those of use choosing a career outdoors.
Plan To Hydrate
You always hear about drinking water frequently while working in the heat, but consider drinking plenty of water the night before your workday outdoors given you likely haven’t had anything to drink in 8-10 hours. This will help with both the quality of your sleep as well as set a better baseline of hydration as you start your workday. Also consider what you drink: beverages with high sugar content are out (sorry, sports drinks!), as are highly caffeinated beverages (soon, I promise, coffee!). A cold bottle of water, or preferably water with some electrolytes in it such as Smart Water or adding flavor/electrolyte tablets such as Nuun will help your body better absorb and use the water.
Eat Real Food
As much as 20% of your fluid intake comes from the food you eat. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily will ensure your body is metabolizing much-needed nutrients for healthy organ function as well as receiving the much-needed water to battle the heat outdoors. Bonus: the most water-rich fruits and veggies are in season during the summer months. Coincidence? Unlikely.
Dress Appropriately For The Heat
If you have a company dress code or uniform, you have little choice, but given the option, opt for light-colored, breathable clothing such as cotton. Letting the sweat be drawn away from moisture-wicking clothing (natural and synthetic) will help your body cool faster.
How Hot Is It, Really?
The heat index, also called the apparent temperature, is a factor of the actual temperature and the relative humidity. This means your truck’s temperature gauge reading of 105 and your mobile app reading of 86 are both wrong when considering how the body will react. The humidity will determine if you experience an 86 degree day or over 100 degrees. OSHA has a Heat Safety Tool mobile app which job site managers can reference to know what is safe relative to the weather.
Know When Enough is Enough
Heat-related illnesses such as heat stress, rash, cramps, exhaustion, and heatstroke can be very dangerous, and symptoms can come on quickly. The best approach to avoid this risk is to plan ahead and be aware of your time in the heat. When it’s hot, take a break to cool off before you feel you need to, because by that point it may be too late to avoid symptoms. Be mindful of how you feel and be observant of your colleagues as well.