By: Martha Wik, CHMM, ASP  

It is that time of the year again, time for barbeques, parades, and fireworks. Time for a relaxing day at the beach, or sitting by the lake in the mountains.  However, this time of the year is one of the most deadly for workers.  Heat illness can happen suddenly and usually because we choose to ignore the symptoms.

Heat related illnesses have become such an issue in the workforce that OSHA has yearly campaigns to make employers aware of the dangers.

When someone is outside on a hot day working, his or her body fights to maintain its inner core temperature. This is typically done by sweating.  You need to have water in your body to sweat, and if you are dehydrated, you are just opening the door to a heat related illness.  Water alone will not help. Your body losses important metabolites when it sweats, salts that help your body perform its regular functions.  Sports drinks have the metabolites that are needed to replenish the system. If not, water will suffice.

How about a nice cold beer, a fruity drink or a glass of rosé? Alcohol and caffeine are two items to stay away from in the heat as both are diuretics. Alcohol can also lead to other issues that could worsen the effects of heat.

You should drink almost 2 quarts of fluids per day on hot, humid days. If possible, you should allow yourself time to get used to the change in temperature. Slowly increase the amount of time you are out in the heat. Take frequent breaks in the shade or better yet, go on inside and sit in the air conditioning for a while.  Wear lightweight clothes.  Make sure you wear light colors as they tend to reflect the light instead of absorb the heat, which could make matters worse.  Try a wide brimmed hat to shade yourself.

It is important to remember to use sunscreen. Once your skin is burned, it effects the ability to sweat by blocking the pores.

Lastly, enjoy the summer weather!

Martha Wik is the Occupational Safety Content Manager for eRisk Solutions.