As a skilled tradesperson, your job requires a lot from you. Not just mentally, but physically as well. Your environment poses different challenges, and as the seasons change, temperature is one thing you can’t ignore.
You never know what type of job may be waiting as you're called out to the field. One thing is certain - the summer season will arrive and, with it, additional considerations in order to stay safe and perform at your peak ability.
Check out our list of safety tips to keep in mind this summer as customer demand and the temperature heats up.
1. Modify your work schedule
Take into account when the peak heat hours are happening. You may need to reschedule appointments to cooler hours or try to do administrative tasks during the middle of the day. HVAC technicians, roofers, garage installers, electricians, and any outdoor professionals should look at their daily schedule and consider moving tasks that would normally have been fine during cooler months.
Just remember, it's easy to get caught up in your work schedule and appointments. Be sure to monitor the temperature throughout the day and reschedule appointments if it means it'll be too hot to handle. You and your team are no good to your customers if you're suffering from a heat stroke.
2. Don't wear clothing that insulates heat
Avoid clothing that will trap your body's heat. Wet or sweat-soaked clothing can trap heat and lead to hyperthermia.
Select lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing during the hot season. Keep spare shirts in your service vehicle to replace wet or sweaty shirts as needed.
3. Wear apparel that breathes
Keep cool. Your clothing is important and you should give it more thought during the summer time. Choose material that dries quickly and breathes. Be careful wearing synthetic fiber clothing. Many polyester materials tend to trap or insulate heat.
In the military, one of their chief concerns during hot environments are heat casualties. When they train during hot months, they have ice-cold methods to cool down someone suffering from hot conditions. They cover them in ice sheets to rapidly cool down the body.
You can do something similar to achieve a similar effect. Bring a small ice chest in your vehicle when you're out in the field. Keep wet neck towels or gel cooling scarves within reach to keep your body temperature down. Each time you take a break, throw the cool washcloth on your neck to help regulate your body temp.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
If you're a supervisor, not only should you have enough water for yourself, make sure your workers have plenty of fluids to drink. If it's hot, you all will be sweating a lot of the fluid that you're intaking. It's important to stress to your team the importance of regularly drinking water, even if you're not thirsty.
If you plan ahead, you can freeze a water bottle the night before, throw that in your small cooler each day. It'll help keep other items cool and as it melts, you have a cool beverage to consume.
Try not to consume drinks that contain caffeine because it's a diuretic and can make you lose more fluids than you take in.
5. Monitor how heat affects your body
A great visual indicator that you are not drinking enough water is the color of your urine. If your urine is a dark yellow color, especially in the morning, your body is showing you that you are not getting the proper amount of hydration.
Also, if you're noticing that you're not sweating in a hot environment, this could be another indicator that your body does not have enough fluid.
Don't ignore these signs. Your body will hint to you what it needs, it's important to pay attention.
6. Ease into a new environment
This is something to remember if you're onboarding new members to your team during the summer months.
You may be acclimated to the hot conditions of your job, but your new team member may not. Be sure to ease them into a physically demanding routine slowly. The process of building tolerance to the hot temperature is called heat acclimatization.
If possible, try to accomplish the outdoor tasks early in the morning before the peak heat of the afternoon arrives.
7. Make changes to your work environment
If it is impractical to air condition a hot indoor space, think about cooling down a break room where workers can get some relief. Portable air conditioning units can be used to cool down individual workstations.
Have a break room with comfortable chairs and a refrigerator stocked with cold drinks, fruit, and snacks.
Make sure the break room is well-lit and free from distractions. Provide fans or air conditioning units for workers who become overheated.
Encourage workers to wear hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen when working in a hot environment. Educate them about the dangers of heat stroke and dehydration.
8. Be aware of symptoms of heat illness
On a hot day, feeling dizzy or sluggish may be a sign that you have a more serious condition. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions, you may be more at risk of heat illness. If you feel like you may faint or you're experiencing painful muscle cramps, stop what you're doing and find a safe spot to rest.
Check to see if your pulse is fast or weak.
Even if the rest of your team is feeling fine, don't hesitate to tell someone that you're not feeling well.
9. Avoid direct sun
Sometimes workers underestimate the time a job may take. They start a job in the morning and the temperature isn't that bad. As the day progresses and you're not as far along as you'd like to be, the sun has made its way higher up above you.
Plan ahead and bring a tarp tent or covering to create shade where you may be working. At the very least, have protective headwear that covers your face and neck, and apply sunscreen.
10. Consider what you're eating
Just like we emphasized increasing the fluid your intake throughout the day, your food is also important.
Choose water-based foods to aid in hydration if you're not keen on drinking lots of water. Melons like watermelon and cantaloupe are a great way to get more fluid into your diet.
Avoid spicy foods that may have a tendency to trigger body heat. Working in the heat will build up an appetite, try not to lean toward heavy or red meat rich meals. This will affect your digestion system creating my energy needed to process heavy meals rather than lighter ones.
The majority of outdoor heat fatalities,50% to 70%, occur in the first couple days of working in hot environments as the body needs to build a tolerance gradually over time.
Heat illness is preventable. Refer to this list over the summer as you take measures to keep yourself and your team safe from the hazardous summer heat.