SUMMER SAFETY

This summer has been hot – the past few weeks have had heat waves and high humidity, with some days reaching 100 degrees. In weather like this, everyone should take precautions to protect themselves.

Heat isn’t the only culprit in summer-related illnesses. Humidity, which is the amount of water vapor in the air, can be dangerous because sweat isn’t evaporating from the body to help it cool off. Higher temperatures also cause worse air quality. During the summer, increased heat leads to higher concentrations of particulate matter (PM) and ozone, and higher air pressure prevents the pollutants from dissipating.
Workers can be at a particularly high risk for summer-related illnesses due to the nature of some work that involves being outdoors for prolonged periods of time. Those with pre-existing conditions such as chronic cardiac disease or lung diseases, like asthma or COPD, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to heat and air pollution. Pregnant workers who are exposed are at higher risk for having children with preterm birth, low birth weight, and respiratory diseases. Workers exposed to extreme heat are also at an increased risk of injuries due to dizziness, sweat, and fogged eye protective gear.
If you work outdoors, learn the symptoms of excess heat and pollutants to catch any illnesses early. Symptoms may include:
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Pale skin
  • Excessive sweating
  • Disorientation
  • Weakness
  • Heat Stroke
  • High body temperature but no sweating
  • Intense headache
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Air pollution
  • Wheezing or coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Dry throat
  • Fatigue
If someone around you is experiencing any of these symptoms, remove him/her to a cool area, preferably indoors, and give liquids to drink. A medical evaluation can determine further course of action. If s/he show signs of heat stroke, call 911.
Protect yourself. There are some simple ways to keep cool this summer that can protect you when working outside:
  • Avoid being outdoors when possible, especially during times when there might be most pollution.
  • Take breaks in cool, shaded areas.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Wear lightweight cotton clothing, and avoid darker colored clothing.
  • Eat small meals regularly instead of larger meals. The body generates more heat while digesting larger meals.
  • Learn the signs of heat-related illness and what to do in an emergency.
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers.
  • Acclimate – “easy does it” on your first days of work; be sure to get used to the heat and allow yourself to build up a tolerance.
Additional Resources:

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health: Heat Stress

In solidarity,

The NABET-CWA Safety Committee