By Brian Ciciora
It’s that time of year again. The sun is out and the heat is here. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), July is the warmest month for most of the country. For those working on the jobsite, it can feel even warmer.
High temperatures pose more risks to workers than extra sweat. Two dangers to watch out for are heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Both conditions can be life-threatening and are caused by overexertion in hot environments where the body is unable to cool itself down efficiently or effectively. Another risk is skin cancer, the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States. The leading cause of skin cancer is UV radiation from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and those who regularly spend time working outdoors are naturally at more risk.
That being said, there are ways for workers to protect themselves against the sun and warm weather. Below are some tips to beat the heat while working outdoors during the summer.
PROTECT YOUR SKIN
According to the Cancer Society, outdoor workers are 10 times more likely to develop conditions from UV radiation. All skin tones can be damaged by UV radiation and the damage is not only permanent, but increases with each exposure. UV radiation is almost always present outdoors and can be affected by factors including sun elevation, latitude, altitude, and cloud cover. Reflective surfaces from materials often found on the jobsite can even bounce UV radiation onto exposed skin.
Despite this, only 18% of outdoor workers report always wearing sunscreen on the job. It is understandable—sunscreen is sticky, attracts dust and debris, and does not last a full day. But as inconvenient as it might be, sunscreen is vital for protection.
CLOTHING AS PROTECTION
For the 82% of workers who are not using sunscreen, there are alternatives, such as protective clothing that covers vulnerable areas such as the arms and neck. Workers should specifically be looking for clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor. Also known as UPF, this is the numerical rating given to clothing to indicate effectiveness at blocking UV radiation.
There are a variety of protective clothing options including Truewerk’s T.5 WerkHoody or Cloud Shirt, made with lightweight, fast-drying, and breathable fabric designed to keep workers cool. And don’t forget about protecting the head! Wear a hat and invest in durable sunglasses with UV protection.
According to Water Natura, 75% of Americans are dehydrated. If you’re reading this, that means you are probably due for a water break!
Drinking water is essential—especially for those in the trades who always need to operate at peak performance. H20 is critical when it comes to regulating and maintaining body temperature, removing waste, and moistening your mouth, eyes, nose, hair, skin, joints, and digestive tract.
About 85% of the brain is made of water and when functioning on a full reserve, people are able to think faster, be more alert, and concentrate more effectively. Water is also critical for efficiently delivering nutrients and removing toxins from the brain.
Although it depends on H20, the brain does not actually have any way to store water. Even slight levels of dehydration can cause the brain to shrink in size. Research from Water Benefits Health indicates that when water loss is merely 2% of body weight, brain functions such as short-term memory and visual motor tracking can be impaired. Those who are slightly thirsty are already on the way to experiencing dehydration and slower reaction times. This can be extremely dangerous for anyone on a jobsite. Here are some tips to help workers avoid dehydration:
Drink at least 16-20 ounces of fluid an hour or two before starting the day.
People should drink 6 to 12 ounces of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes they are outdoors. Estimates suggest that workers in heavy PPE can lose as much as 2.25 liters every hour.
Even after clocking out, stay hydrated. To replace what was lost throughout the day, drink at least another 16 to 24 ounces (2 to 3 glasses).
Keep water cool; the body absorbs water in the 50-60 degrees F range much faster. Insulated stainless steel water bottles from brands like HydroFlask can keep water cold almost all day and Truewerk’s Hydra WerkPack ensures H20 is always readily available.
20% of daily water intake comes from food. High-water foods include watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, berries, and leafy greens. All of these foods also offer key nutrients.
RECOGNIZING WARNING SIGNS
It is essential that workers are able to recognize signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion. These include fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. Urination can also provide indicators about hydration. Everyone should know the “golden rule” test—if urine is clear to pale, you are hydrated. If it appears more golden, you should drink more water.
It is important to be proactive about looking for warning signs—when not treated promptly, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which can be life-threatening.
There are unique risks when it comes to working outdoors in the summer, but there are ways for workers to protect themselves against the sun and heat. Workers should also be aware of how to catch warning signs of conditions of working outdoors in the heat early. The risks associated with outdoor work in the summer are serious, but when vigilant about taking the necessary precautionary steps, workers can successfully stay cool on the job. It is always worth it to take the extra time to hydrate.
About the author:
Brian Ciciora is the founder and CEO of Truewerk, a direct-to-consumer performance workwear brand driven to protect, promote, and empower industrial athletes through comfortable, high-performance workwear. Committed to improving lives by setting a higher performance standard for workwear, Truewerk utilizes elite materials and technical design that keeps you safe, comfortable, and looking professional. For more, visit truewerk.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, July 2021
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