Hot temperatures are officially here. As we enter the season of triple-digit weather, those who work outdoors are at risk of heat-related illness. OSHA reports 2011, thousands of workers in the United States got sick from exposure to heat on the job, and more than 60 workers died.
Tips for staying cool while working outside this summer
Here are some practical tips for beating the heat this summer:
- Water – drink water throughout the day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty as thirst is a sign that you are already dehydrated. Drink 4 cups of water every hour throughout the day.
- Rest – give your body time to recover throughout the work day by taking breaks.
- Shade – take those breaks in the shade or find some air-conditioning if possible in order to bring your body’s temperature down.
- Create your own cool – wet a cotton towel to wrap around your neck. There are plenty of cooling towels on the market ranging from $12 to $22 each. A 2013 Consumer Reports article states that there is no difference between a wet cooling towel and a wet cotton towel. 
- If possible, wear light colored clothing. Request light colored uniforms for the summer months if you employer provides your work clothes.
- Wear a hat or light colored hard hat.
- Protect your skin with sunscreen. Construction workers and oilfield workers are at high risk for skin cancer given their work outdoors. Since the risk of death and permanent injury on these work sites is more pressing, skin cancer is often overlooked.
- Watch out for each other.
- Know when to call for help.
What are the signs of heat-related illness?
It’s important to know the signs of heat-related illness—acting quickly can save lives.
- Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. When your body builds up heat, you sweat to get rid of the extra heat. With heat stroke, your body can’t cool down. The symptoms include:
very high body temperature
hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
If a co-worker is experiencing heat stroke, call for help.
- Heat exhaustion is less serious than heat stroke. Heat exhaustion happens when your body loses too much water and salt through sweating. Symptoms include:
- Heat fatigue, heat cramps, and heat rash are signs of being in the heat too long.
If you feel that you have suffered from heat stroke or see a co-worker in distress, get help. Heat stroke is a medical emergency requiring immediate intervention.