Part of my day job involves occupational safety. The single biggest challenge in my occupation this time of year is heat safety. While we've had no on-site problems, the news stories regularly bring news of those who are overcome by heat and serve as a good reminder to be careful out there.
Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the United States, and here in South Carolina, it will be far more prevalent than cold-related injuries and fatalities. To help you protect yourself - and others - here's some good advice from someone whose job it is to keep people safe:
- Wear Appropriate Clothing & Sunscreen: Dress light and loosely, and apply sunscreen to protect exposed skin.
- Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: If you can cut the yard earlier, or save yard work for the evening, then do it. No point taking unnecessary risks.
- Use a Buddy System & watch out for others: Often people will overestimate their ability to deal with heat and underestimate the severity of symptoms of heat exhaustion, which is a prelude to heat stroke. Watch your neighbors if they're working alone, offer them drinks, and if you're working at home alone, invite a friend to come over to help.
- Adjust to changing weather conditions: If it gets hotter, pace yourself and consider putting work off for cooler periods.
- Drink Plenty of Fluids: 12 to 16 oz per hour of work is a good rule to follow. Water is good, but for prolonged work, sports drinks will provide additional substances needed to keep your body going as well as provide a flavorful break from just drinking water.
- Adjust your body to the heat: It takes time - up to two weeks - to adjust your body to working outdoors. Don't push yourself too far and ease into it, working a little more each day you're active outside.
- Never overwork yourself: If you're feeling tired, sweating too much, or weak and disoriented, it's time to stop, but even before that, take lots of breaks.
To find out more, here are some websites which are well worth reading:
- Heat-related illnesses and symptoms to watch out for (Public Affairs Office, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center)
- General Heat Safety information (National Weather Service)