Things have been heatin’ up across the nation -- literally. From our home base in Denver, temperatures this July have been reaching over 95 degrees daily and we’re lucky compared to other places. With most of our sidewalks hot enough to fry breakfast on, the heat and how to stay healthy/safe in it continues to be top of mind for Truewerk and our customers. We’ve rounded up the resources, tips and facts you need to do just that.
Know When Job Site Heat Becomes the Enemy
Sometimes working in hot environments for long periods of time is simply unavoidable in the trades, indoors and out -- especially in the summer months.
When the body is unable to maintain a stable temperature, heat illnesses can occur and even become fatal. High temperatures, humidity, low fluid consumption, direct sun exposure with no shade, no breeze or wind coupled with physical exertion and use of bulky equipment are all factors that can lead to your body overheating.
According to OSHA (hey, they know what they’re talking about!), there are four major heat-related health problems to be aware of in the field:
Heat Stroke is the most serious of them all. It occurs when the body’s temperature regulating system fails and the body’s temperature rises to critical levels (greater than 104°F). Heat stroke may result in death, so knowing the signs is crucial. If you or someone in your crew starts experiencing confusion, hot skin and no sweat, loss of consciousness, and seizures -- take action immediately and call 911.
Heat Exhaustion is slightly less serious, but more common. The signs and symptoms are headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, thirst, heavy sweating and a body temperature greater than 100.4°F. Workers with heat exhaustion should be removed from the hot area and given liquids to drink. Cool the worker with cold compresses to the head, neck, and face or have the worker wash his or her head, face and neck with cold water. Encourage frequent sips of cool water.
Heat Cramps are muscle pains usually caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Workers with heat cramps should replace fluid loss by drinking water and/or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquids (e.g., sports drinks) every 15 to 20 minutes.
- Heat Rash is the most common problem in hot work environments caused by sweating. The rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters and may appear on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts and elbow creases. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes unavoidable if seeking out a cooler, less humid work environment isn’t an option. The rash area should be kept dry as best as possible and applying baby powder frequently can increase comfort. Ointments and creams should not be used on a heat rash. Anything that makes the skin warm or moist may make the rash worse.
Print this rundown from the CDC of heat illnesses, their signs and how to address them. Give copies to the crew so everyone can be on the same page and keep one handy on the jobsite.
Here’s a straight forward visual focused on the two most serious heat illnesses to share with friends and coworkers, too.
Knowing what the warning signs are and looking out for them can help catch a heat illness before it becomes too late. By embracing the camaraderie of your crew, having each other’s backs and keeping an open dialogue about how everyone might be feeling, you can protect yourself and each other from the heat. Thankfully, there are many ways to prevent these illnesses and ways to stay cool.
Keeping it Cool
From working on construction sites to crouching in attics, even the fittest trade professional will feel the impact of extreme heat. The work you do is always physically challenging, but the heat isn’t something to be shrugged off as part of the job. So, how to get the job done without jeopardizing your health and well-being?
The best way to survive the heat is to plan ahead and incorporate prevention measures. ForConstructionPros.com says it perfectly, “You wouldn’t show up at a worksite without the right tools, and you shouldn’t arrive unprepared for the heat.”
While taking a few hours out of the heat to find cool spots with arctic-worthy air conditioning typically isn’t an option for the hardworking men and women of the trades, these 8 tips that we curated from all over the web are:
Hydrate! You’re probably getting sick of us talking about drinking water, but heading back over to our hydration talk with Dr. Missy is in your best interest. Water is critical. Your water bottle? Let it become your best friend. Check out this urine color chart while you’re at it too.
- Cut the caffeine - Overdoing it on the caffeine can prompt dehydration whether its coffee, energy drinks or soda. Even if you're hankering for a boost to get you through a tough afternoon, try to avoid it when that afternoon involves rising temperatures.
- Less is not more in the sun. It’s a good idea to wear cool, loose-fitting clothing in light-colored fabrics that breathe and help your body maintain a healthy temperature -- like say, our T.5 WerkHoody or Cloud Shirt. As hard as it may be to resist stripping off your clothing when you feel like the sun is out to get you, leaving skin exposed will make matters worse.
- Rest. Preferably in the shade. Do give yourself ample breaks.. If you can rotate jobs among the crew, you should, so that everyone can take brief cover. Pop-up tents are a necessity if there’s no natural shady spots.
- Adjust your diet. Because working in the heat comes with a new set of challenges, meaty lunches might not be the best idea. Your body generates even more heat as it tries to break down those heavy meals. You’re better off with smaller snacks and light meals. Include plenty of leafy green veggies, fresh fruit and nuts to amp up the electrolytes. Plus, as crazy as it sounds -- spicy food or soup can actually cool you down as it enhances your circulation and body’s natural way of cooling.
- Sprinkle some H20 on your body. Whether you’re pouring a bit from your water bottle and grabbing ice from a crew cooler, putting it on your wrists and back of the neck will make you feel better out in the hot sun.
- Acquire a taste for coconut water. It’s a science-based hack that will keep you safer, thanks to its abundance of potassium.
- Adjust accordingly. Work in the mornings and evenings as much as you can. Try to plan for the most physically demanding work to be done before or after the midday sun is beating down.
While these tips might not cover it all, this 3-pager on Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat touches on things we might have missed, like designating a person to oversee a heat stress program or acclimatization. It goes without saying that wherever you work, there should be an emergency plan related to heat in place.
We also recommend printing some of these infographics and keeping them in a place that will be visible on a daily basis, so the signs of heat illnesses and ways to prevent them are never missed. This article is also a great resource to encourage your crew to spend time getting familiar with.
Truewerk strives to make high performance workwear to protect your health in any job site environment. That’s why we put so much thought into everything we make, from lightweight hoodies to shorts and summer-weight pants, we want you to be healthy in the heat and sun. This month we’re giving away a summer health bundle that will include T.5 WerkHoody, T1 WerkShorts, Hydropack and more, so head over to our instagram to enter!
Tell us how you’re embracing the summer health practices we’ve been talking about all month long by commenting below and give us ideas for our next blog post.