Dangers for Employees Working in the Sun

Stay safe in the heat

heat, safety, construction, workers, employees, men, drinking water, water

We all know the summer sun can be dangerous and sometimes unbearable. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, $100 million is lost in productivity yearly because of people’s inability to perform due to sun-related illnesses. Not only are the sun’s rays harmful to the skin, the sun releases tons of energy as heat every minute! It is important to be mindful of the hazards in an outdoor working environment because of the various dangers it can pose to employees. Below are a few tips to use as a guide when working in these outdoor locations.

Before Work

It is imperative that workers take the necessary precautions to decrease possible risks and to prevent excessive sun exposure. Before working outside, Employers should do the following:

  1. Train Employees:
  • Train employees on how to recognize important signs and symptoms
  • Teach them the importance of being alert and looking out for one another
  • Show them the proper procedures on how to get the job done safely
  • Remind them to take breaks and stay hydrated
  1. Check Forecast:
  • The weather and temperature for any working day should be checked and double checked
  • Check out the new OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool App
    • For employees that work outdoors during the peak hours of the sun’s presence
    • App finds the user’s geographic location and provides them with the heat index at any given time
    • Features an hourly forecast as well as occupational health and safety recommendations
    • The UV Index is also a good source to check the ultraviolet levels throughout the day
  1. Ensure A Safe Work Environment:
  • The infrastructure of a workplace should be safe and suitable for all workers
  • Make sure there are enough shaded areas, water fountains, and ventilation within the vicinity
  • Have darker colored equipment to help absorb any unnecessary heat (the sun’s rays can dangerously reflect off lighter surfaces)

During Work

Try not to start off the workday with strenuous activities as this may lead to burnout and tiredness. Rather, begin with simple tasks then work your way up. This builds tolerance and endurance for the future. During work, employees should be aware of their environment and focus on the following:

  1. Breaks:
  • Workers should take necessary breaks in between tasks
  • Employers should remind and encourage them to take these breaks
  • Be sure to rest in a shaded or air conditioned area and stay hydrated by drinking water
  1. Body Protection:
  • Clothing is the first barrier against environmental dangers
  • Protect yourself by wearing lighter colored clothing (this does not absorb as much heat as darker clothes)
  • Use Sunscreen with an SPF above 15

What To Look Out For

Many heat illnesses can be treated without any medical attention but some could be fatal if not treated promptly. If concerned, check for the following signs/symptoms and proceed quickly if one has been detected.

Signs/Symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Red or tanned skin
  • Fainting
  • Heavy sweating
  • Thirst
  • Dehydration

If you experience any of these, you may have developed a sun-related illness.

What to do: If any of the above signs/symptoms are shown

  • Stop and move to a cooler area
  • Drink cold water and loosen any clothing so the body can cool off
  • Apply cold water or ice packs directly onto the body
  • Depending on the severity of the case, immediately dial 911 or go to your nearest Nova Occupational Health Clinic

From Heat rashes to Skin Cancer, overexposure to the Sun’s radiation can cause a range of inconveniences for both the employees and the employer. It is important to take the right measures to protect the body from the harmful rays and excessive heat. The best protection is always prevention.

NOVA Medical Centers specialize solely in Occupational Medicine. With over 45 facilities across Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Indiana, NOVA strives to provide the best care for America’s workforce.

Written by: Oluchi Nwaobia

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