Working in the Heat

High temperatures, high humidity, sunlight, and heavy workloads increase the likelihood of heat stress. Not only can the heat cause heat-related illnesses, working in too much heat can make you lose your concentration or make you become tired and irritable, in turn increasing the likelihood of an accident and injuries.  There are several things you can do to help prevent and reduce accidents.

  • Acclimate yourself - The Oklahoma State Department of Health recommends that you acclimate yourself to working outdoors in the extreme heat.  Acclimatization may take weeks, although significant adaptation usually occurs within a few days of the first exposure.  You may want to limit heat exposure to one-third of the work day during the first and second days you work, one-half of the workday during the third and fourth days, and two-thirds of the work day during the fifth and sixth days. To accomplish acclimatization, you must work in the heat at the level required by the job.  
  • Drink plenty of water  - Do not rely on feeling thirsty, because it is possible to lose fluid so quickly that the normal thirst mechanism is overridden.  According to the Department of Labor, to replace the four to eight quarts of sweat that may be produced in hot environments, you need to drink one-half to one cup of water every 20 minutes of the work day.  
  • Schedule as many hot activities as practical for the coolest part of the day (early morning or late afternoon.)  
  • Take rest breaks at frequent, regular intervals, preferably in a cool environment sheltered from direct sunlight.  
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing to reflect away some of the sun's energy. Also, wearing a hat with a brim can protect your heat-sensitive head from the sun.

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