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Hot Weather Safety Tips

For professional contractors, typically the summer months mean more work, long hours, and many projects beginning or getting kicked into high-gear to take advantage of longer daylight hours and more consistent “good weather.” In addition, even though the summer months are winding down, the months ahead can still bring high temperatures and lots of sunshine in many parts of the country, so keep some of these ideas in mind.

It is not uncommon for men and women in the construction field to give little thought to the idea of UV radiation and its long-term harmful effects. Outdoor workers are all at an increased risk of UV radiation & its long-term harmful effects due to overexposure to the sun so it is incredibly important for outdoor workers to protect themselves by liberally and frequently applying sunscreen, covering up their skin with long sleeved clothing and pants, wearing hats and sunglasses, and seeking shade whenever possible.

Sunscreen is not just for swimming

There is no getting around it; you are going to have exposed skin throughout the day, whether it is your face, the back of your neck, or your arms. A common mistake that outdoor workers make is that they just apply one layer of sunscreen at the start of their day and expect it to last for 8 – 10 hours. Sunscreen will not last that long, even it if says that it is “waterproof” or “sweat proof.” Through normal movement, your sunscreen will be rubbed off by your clothes and interactions. So reapply, reapply, and reapply, every 2-4 hours. Also, be sure to use sunscreen with a high level of sun protection factor (SPF). Use at least SPF 15 or higher to block more than 90% of UV radiation. One area that many people, especially men, overlook is their lips. Use lip balm with SPF protection, as well you do not want to spend the summer with dry, cracked lips.

Sunscreen rubs off over time, sleeves do not

Even when applying an adequate amount of sunscreen, it is recommended that workers wear long pants, long sleeves, wide-brim hats, etc. to cover up your skin as much as possible. You want to create as many barriers as possible between your skin and harmful UV rays. It is recommended that you wear lighter colours to help prevent overheating as well. While having a great tan or darker skin complexion may prevent you from getting painful sunburn, tans and dark skin do not prevent UV exposure, or skin cancer. Never think your skin will be fine because “it’s used to the sun.”

Keep on drinking

It is very important to remain hydrated by drinking lots of water or some sports drink option throughout the day. Outdoor workers sweat out a lot of water and if you start to feel dizzy, have strong headaches, or feel nauseous, seek shade and sip some water. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids.

Do not drink high-caffeine energy drinks since they provide only small amounts of hydration while increasing your heart rate and acting as a diuretic that removes water from your system. Carbonated soft drinks and sugary sodas are also not recommended for hydration purposes

Get out of direct sunlight

Speaking of seeking shade, regardless of your SPF level or the types of clothes that you have on, it is not a good idea to remain in the sun for 8-10 hours at a time. If you are a supervisor, it is recommended that you try to limit the amount of time that individual workers are working out in the sun when it is at its strongest, between 10.00am and 2.00pm. It is better to complete outdoor tasks during the earlier morning hours or the later evening hours. When you do have to work through the heat of the day, try to rotate your crews and share the work to reduce individual worker sun and heat exposure. Either way, it is a good idea to make sure there is adequate shade close to the worksite for crewmembers to rest in. If shade is not available naturally, consider providing awnings, umbrellas, or shade cloths to give workers a chance to get out of the direct sunlight. Working outside during the summer months can be tough, but with proper planning and preparation, it does not have to be dangerous. These guidelines are recommended for better worker safety from risks such as heat stress and sun poisoning, as well as more long-term risks such as skin cancer.