In 2014, 2,360 workers became sick and 14 died as a result of heat illness—all of which were preventable. If you’re an outdoor worker, it is important to take precautions against exposure to sun, heat and bug bites during the summer months.
To protect against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays:
- Cover up. Wear lightweight, tightly woven clothing that you can’t see through.
- Use sunscreen. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 blocks 93 percent of UV rays. Be sure to follow application directions.
- Wear a hat. It should protect your neck, ears, forehead, nose and scalp.
- Wear UV-absorbent shades. Sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation. Before you buy, read the product label.
The combination of heat and humidity can be a serious health threat during the summer months. In the simplest terms, dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. Staying hydrated is important to keep all your body functions running smoothly. Since you work outdoors and exert yourself physically, you’ll want to take extra precautions as summer heats up.To beat the heat:
- Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as dry-fit material.
Be aware that equipment such as respirators or work suits can increase heat stress.
Eat smaller meals before work activity.
- Drink plenty of water before you get thirsty. (Skip the caffeine and soda; drink water instead.)
On average, adults lose almost 10 cups of water a day simply by doing everyday tasks such as sweating, breathing and going to the bathroom. Electrolytes are also lost. These minerals, which include sodium, potassium and calcium, maintain the balance of fluids in the body. When you are doing physical work, you lose even more fluids and electrolytes. If you begin to feel symptoms of dehydration, don’t ignore them. How do you know if you’re dehydrated? You’ll begin to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Excessive thirst
- Sleepiness or tiredness
- Dry mouth
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
OSHA has put together a number of tools for employers and employees to use to prevent heat illness. OSHA’s web page includes educational materials, training and an online toolkit for employers to use. Additionally, OSHA developed a heat safety app for both Apple and Android devices that allows users to determine the risk of heat illness in a specific location.
If you’re working in tall grass or wooded areas, take the following precautions to protect yourself from ticks:
- Wear light-colored clothing to see ticks more easily.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants.
- Tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
- Wear high boots or closed shoes that cover your feet completely.
- Wear a hat.
- Use tick repellants, but not on your face.
- Wash and dry your work clothes at high temperatures.
Examine your body for ticks after work. Remove any attached ticks promptly with a tweezers. In some regions, ticks may transmit Lyme disease. If you get bit and develop a rash, see your doctor.
Insect Bites and Stings
Bee, wasp, hornet and yellow jacket stings are typically only dangerous to those who are allergic or have been stung multiple times.
- Wear bug repellant.
- Avoid wearing heavy perfumes or scented lotions.
- Check before drinking from cups, bottles or cans. Stinging insects are attracted to sweet drinks.