Summer is a great time to be outdoors, either for work or play. People head to the beach, begin construction and go outdoors to soak up the sun's rays. The heat means this time can be quite brutal for many employees who, by virtue of their assignments, work in the sun.
Heat exhaustion, even leading to heat stroke, becomes a real threat for many during this time, and more should be done in a preventive way to manage this risk.
This week, we share basic tips for employees and employers to ensure the safety and well-being of team members during the warmer months.
• Drink water frequently, and drink enough water that you never become thirsty. Drink water or other non-caffeinated, electrolytic beverages, and make sure your drinks are always slightly cooled - not room temperature. Adding a lemon slice to water can make plain water more drinkable.
• Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural materials such as cotton. Avoid wearing non-breathing synthetic clothing. Wear safety glasses with UV protection, sunscreen and brimmed hard hats.
• Gradually build up to heavy work. If possible, do the hardest work during the coolest time of the day. Employees who are suddenly exposed to working in a hot environment face additional hazards to their health and safety. New workers, and those returning from time away, need to be extra careful in making sure they stay hydrated.
• Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity. Move to the shade or a cool area, such as an air-conditioned building or car when possible, but try not to go in and out of air conditioning too much as it will make it harder for you to adjust to the heat. Use cooling fans whenever possible.
• Select your lunch carefully. Junk food is high in fat and preservatives, and will put a high caloric load on the digestive system. Try eating a bigger breakfast so you are not as hungry at lunch. Eat light lunches that include fruits, vegetables and salads.
• Keep an eye on your co-workers, and be alert for signs of heat exhaustion. Early symptoms include lethargy, disorientation, stumbling, dropping tools, slurred speech or unresponsiveness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency requiring a 919 call and immediate cooling.
• Check your urine frequency and colour throughout the day. Water intake is adequate when urine is clear or light yellow. When the desire to urinate is less than twice per day and/or you are producing a dark yellow urine, you may be dehydrated.
• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organsations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org