Heat & Sun Safety in the Dog Days of Summer
The bottom line in heat safety is simple: Water. Rest. Shade. Hydration is often overlooked, yet a vital safety measure. Without proper hydration and rest in the shade, one’s body temperature can rise to unsafe levels and cause heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. However, while widely known that prolonged activities without hydration in high temperatures and humidity can lead to serious illness and even death, there are many less commonly discussed facts that are important to understand with regard to heat safety. For example:
- The National Weather Service heat index indicates that the likelihood of heat disorders with prolonged exposure or strenuous activity begins with a combined outdoor temperature of 80°F and a relative humidity of 40%.
- Working in direct sunlight adds up to 15 degrees to the heat index.
- Antihistamines and certain types of blood pressure medication can impair the ability to sweat.
- Individuals with diabetes are at increased risk of heat illness.
- A lack of recent exposure to hot activity or working conditions can increase one’s risk of heat illness.
With several weeks of hot summer sun ahead of us in most parts of the country, sun exposure is another safety concern that should be addressed regularly with workers. The American Cancer Society estimates over 100,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2020, so skin cancer should be a concern for framers. According to one study discussed in Safety+Health, just a bit of education can help. Simply one educational session was shown to produce significant results.
David Klatzkin, safety director at Hull Associates in Grand Prairie, Texas, says sun safety is a good topic to discuss during safety meetings with employees. He makes sure to point out that his company’s employees are typically smart about what they wear on bright summer days. “They do a pretty good job of covering up,” he says. However, even with his crews where sun safety is taken seriously, David acknowledges there is still room for reminders and improvement. David says his crews’ hands are often exposed and they tend not to wear sunscreen, so there is value in working in some training on the subject “to just refresh them,” he says.
As with all safety issues, proper training is key to avoiding unwanted incidents. The following resources are available to assist in training efforts:
- NFC FrameSAFE Resources:
- NFC Framing News Articles:
- SBC Magazine Article: Stay Safe in the Summer Heat
- OSHA Resource: Heat Illness Prevention Campaign Website
- OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool: Android App | iPhone App
- NIOSH Blog: Heat Index: When humidity makes it feel hotter
- EHS Today Article: 6 Tips to Beat the Summer Heat
- CPWR Hazard Alert: Skin Cancer
- OSHA: Protecting Yourself in the Sun
- NIOSH: Sun Exposure
- American Cancer Society: Skin Cancer Prevention & Early Detection
- American Academy of Dermatology: Spot Skin Cancer