Summer is just around the corner, and with the warm weather, trips to the cottage and fun on the water comes a new set of risks we all need to be aware of, both at work and play. We’ve compiled a series of safety tips that address the most common hazards summer brings designed to keep your employees, families, and yourselves safe.
Summer is here and so are hot, humid days where working outside on a jobsite or in your backyard can be very dangerous. People working outside should be aware of two very harmful heat illnesses that can be caused in the type of weather we typically see in the summer: heat stress (or heat exhaustion) and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be used interchangeably by people who don’t know the difference. However the former is usually accompanied by a fever no higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit as well as:
- Excessive thirst
- Cool and clammy skin
- Muscle aches
- Heavy sweating
- Slow heartbeat and dizziness
Heatstroke may develop following heat exhaustion if the condition is not treated. It occurs when the body’s temperature rises and the cooling system stops working. This potentially life-threatening condition is characterized by nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, fatigue, rapid heart rate, hot and dry skin, shortness of breath and decreased urination.
How do you recognize the symptoms of these two heat disorders? Some common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Nausea or irritability
- Muscle cramps or weakness
- Feeling faint
- Heavy sweating
- High body temperature
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Loss of consciousness
- Very high body temperature
How would you treat someone with heat stress or heat stroke?
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat
- Use sunscreenwith a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more
- Drink extra fluids. To prevent dehydration, it’s generally recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water, fruit juice, or vegetable juice per day. Because heat-related illness also can result from salt depletion, it may be advisable to substitute an electrolyte-rich sports drink for water during periods of extreme heat and humidity
- Take additional precautions when exercising or working outdoors. The general recommendation is to drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before your exercise, and consider adding another 8 ounces of water or sports drink right before your exercise. During your exercise, you should consume another 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty
- Reschedule or cancel any outdoor activity you have planned for that day. If possible, shift your time outdoors to the coolest times of the day, either early morning or after sunset
Who knew that summer weather could be so deadly, especially when working outdoors? There is no question that at this time of year safety is more important than ever for everyone. Are you prepared to take on the heat?
Dehydration is a powerful thing. It can kill. Now is the most important time of year to make sure you drink a lot of water to protect yourself from the heat and getting sick.
As a refresher, dehydration is a condition that results when the body loses more water than it takes in. This imbalance disrupts the usual levels of salts and sugars present in the blood, which can interfere with the way the body functions.
Two-thirds of the human body is composed of water, which aids in numerous functions, like lubrication of the joints and eyes, digestion, and the flushing out of wastes and toxins. As the water content in the blood begins to decline, the resulting imbalance in the levels of minerals, salts and sugars can cause several harmful effects.
How do you recognize dehydration coming? Some of the early signs of dehydration include:
- Intense thirst
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
- Having concentrated urine that is dark in color and strong in smell
- A reduction in the frequency of urination
To treat a person who is dehydrated you need to make sure that they drink plenty of fluids like water or fruit juice. You should also make sure that they avoid caffeinated beverages and fizzy drinks.
Nutritionist Robin Glace at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) warns that, additionally, many energy drinks are not necessarily healthy due to a very high sodium and sugar content. “They simply aren’t worth the high cost to your health or pocket book.” Instead, Glance suggests that the best way to stay well hydrated is by simply “taking lots of small sips of water throughout the day and during activities.” In terms of replenishing electrolytes lost due to excessive sweating; or during times of high heat or high levels of exertion over extended periods of time, Glance offers a much healthier – and far less expensive – option to commercial drinks:
- 1 part orange juice
- 2 parts water,
- ¼ tsp of salt.
“That combination contains everything most people need to rebalance their electrolytes” she says.
If illnesses such as vomiting or diarrhea are making it difficult to hold water down, you should drink in small sips .Infants and children who are dehydrated should not be given water as this can dilute the already low levels of electrolytes and minerals in their bodies. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the use of oral rehydration solutions, which are especially designed for children with diarrhea and dehydration. The solution contains a mixture of potassium, salts and sugars to restore the correct balance of body fluids. Prompt treatment of dehydration is important, as severe dehydration can cause life-threatening complications and even death.
Staying hydrated is important for all of us. Not having enough water in our bodies on a hot, sunny day is a real danger. It can make you feel sick, and even kill you. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated!
A lot of work people do in the summer involves working outdoors. However, the sun is quite strong during summer days and if you’re not careful it can be as deadly at is nice.
If you find yourself working outside in the humid weather that this summer is bringing it’s a good idea to follow these steps:
- Try to limit the amount of time you work outdoors in the sun from 11 am to 4 pm.
- Seek shade created by buildings, trees, or canopies as much as possible, especially during lunch and coffee breaks.
- Apply an SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin before you go outside. This type of sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays.
- Reapply the sunscreen at midday or more often if you are perspiring heavily. Apply a broad spectrum, SPF 30 lip balm.
A good question is to ask yourself this season is, do you need more frequent breaks while working outside? Generally speaking, the hot weather’s effect on an individual cannot be readily managed using just engineering controls. In these circumstances some of the most effective ways of managing hot environments is by introducing some simple administrative controls, including:
- Rescheduling work to cooler times of the day
- Providing more frequent rest breaks and introducing shade to rest areas
- Introducing shade in areas where individuals are working
- Encouraging the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help facilitate heat loss
- Educating workers about recognizing the early symptoms of heat stress
The Ministry of Labor advises that as an employer it is crucial that you provide cool drinking water near workers and remind them to drink a cup about every 20 minutes, or more frequently, to stay hydrated. You should always provide enough cool drinking water to satisfy all of your employees at your outdoor operation.
Proper clothing is also important when protecting yourself from the sun. In general, while working outdoors it is recommended that you wear clothing that covers as much of the body as possible. Fabrics which do not let light through work best. Make sure clothing is loose and comfortable. It is also recommended that while outside you should wear a wide-brimmed hat (more than 8 centimeters or 3 inches) and attach a back flap to a construction helmet to cover the back of the neck. Also have a visor to cover the front of your face.
Being outside in the summertime can be fun, but it’s also dangerous if you’re not careful. Follow these steps and it should be smooth sailing. Stay cool, folks!
Some of the most dangerous bugs are the ones you hear about most in the summer when up in cottage country, like blackflies, mosquitos, deer flies and horseflies.
Cottage country danger is not the only concern. People also like to travel a lot in the summer for various reasons: the kids are done school and a lot of people like to take vacation. Many travel-related diseases are spread by infected insects like mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, or flies. Before you travel, Health Canada advises that you should be aware of the insects at your destination that cause disease and know their peak biting times (e.g. day vs. night) and areas (e.g. indoors vs. outdoors, rural vs. urban). To minimize your risk you should always take protective measures to avoid insect bites and ensure you have the appropriate preventive vaccines and/or medications.
Some general recommendations to protect you from bites are:
- Cover up
- Use insect repellent on exposed skin
- Consider your accommodations. For example,stay in a well-screened or completely enclosed air-conditioned room. Avoid staying in poorly constructed housing such as mud, adobe, or thatch (plant stalks or foliage used for roofing) structures.
- Sleep under a bed net, preferably treated with insecticide (for example):
- Make sure the net is intact (no tears).
- Tuck it under the mattress.
- Make sure it is not touching you (you could be bitten through the net).
- Use for playpens, cribs, or strollers to protect young children.