Work Outside? Soaring Temps Create Hazardous Outdoor Work Environments

heat, occupational health, summer, Heat Dome

When extreme heat hits, spending time in air conditioning is a welcome reprieve. But for those who work outside or in hot environments, heat is an occupational danger.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, exposure to extreme temperatures places workers at risk of heat stress that can lead to heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. Of these, heat stroke is by far the most concerning as death or permanent disability can be the outcome.

Heat can also increase the risk of other injuries by causing:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Fogged up safety goggles
  • Dizziness
  • Dangerously hot surfaces

Some workers are at an increased risk for heat-related illness and may need to be given special consideration when performing outdoor work including: workers older than 65 or workers overweight, with heart disease or high blood pressure. Certain medications may also be problematic in extreme heat.

“Making sure workers have access to cool water, shade, fans and possibly even water misters can be the difference in making sure workers make it home after a labor-intensive day in the sun,” said Heather O’Hara, MD, MSPH, and medical director with Memorial Occupational Health.

When working in outdoor heat, occupational safety experts suggest the following tips for workers:

  • Take time to acclimatize, working shorter shifts until you body adjusts to the heat.
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Designate a buddy and watch for signs of heat-related illness.
  • Take frequent rest and hydration breaks in the shade.

Consider scheduling work tasks extra early or later on, avoiding the peak heat time of noon to 4 p.m.

For more information about the services Memorial Occupational Health provides employers, visit Memorial Occupational Health.