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Working outside under blue skies and feeling the sun on your shoulders can be invigorating and is also a big reason why many enjoy working in road construction. However, as temperatures rise, and the sun comes out, you need to focus on protecting your body from harmful UV rays, heat exhaustion, and being aware of other potential dangers that come with working in the heat.
When you expose your skin to sun exposure for lengthy amounts of time, you are at a higher risk for severe sunburns and worse, skin cancer. To make matters worse, work zones are often surrounded by reflective materials like concrete, water, clothing, and signage. All of these things increase sun exposure, putting you more at risk.
Here are some things you can do to decrease the risk of prolonged sun exposure:
Wear sunscreen. Even if you don’t think you need sunscreen, you do. We recommend using a high SPF, applying it 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplying every 2 to 3 hours.
Wear the proper gear. When you think about working in the heat, you might be tempted to grab some shorts and a t-shirt. However, those articles of clothing will do nothing for sun protection.
Allsafe Traffic recommends our workers wear safety glasses with tinted and polarized lenses, a long-sleeved shirt and pants, and a broad-brimmed hat with a neck flap.
Not only does the sun present a danger to your skin, but it also presents a threat to your health, and it can turn deadly, quick. Let’s learn about the different levels of heat illness.
Heat stress: Heat stress is the first level of heat illness. It’s caused by heat exposure and other elements such as high humidity, synthetic clothing, dehydration, and high body heat.
Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is the second level of heat illness. Typically, it’s accompanied by a fever, excessive thirst, nausea, clammy skin, confusion, and muscle aches. Heat exhaustion is particularly dangerous because it can lead to heatstroke.
Heatstroke: Heatstroke is the final level of heat illness. It is particularly dangerous and can even kill you. If left untreated, heatstroke can damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. Signs include high body temperature, delirium, rapid breathing, and more.
So, what can you do to avoid heat illness? Here are a few heat safety tips for your work zone.
Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol: The first step to preventing heat illness is to make sure you stay hydrated. OHS recommends drinking at least 4 cups of water every hour, about one cup every 15 minutes. If you know you will be working in the sun, you should also try to avoid alcohol since it is known to lead to dehydration.
Rest: OHS also recommends getting rest throughout the day, because breaks help your body to recover. Your job site should provide you with small breaks throughout your day.
Work on physical fitness: Individuals who are overweight are prone to a higher risk of heatstroke. When your body has excess weight, it will retain more heat.
Keep an eye out for your co-workers: If you see a co-worker exhibiting signs of heat illness or sunburn seek help for them immediately.
At Allsafe Traffic, the safety of road workers is our number one priority. This is why we have dedicated ourselves to making our workzones safe for all road users and those inside the work zone as safe as possible.