Working in Extreme Temperatures

DF SafetyEnvironmental Hazards, Health and Safety Tips, Personal Safety Guide

Extreme temperatures

It is starting to get hot out there, so a good topic for the week is to talk about how working (and playing for that matter) in higher summer temperatures can be hazardous to our health. I also share some early warning signs to look out for and ways to protect yourself!  

As the season transitions into summer, it is critical to be aware of the hazards hotter environments present as opposed to working in cooler environments. Summer temperatures can affect our body in a negative way and can cause serious adverse health effects. These health effects include heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and worst of all heatstroke which is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention! 

It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of these conditions, especially if you are someone who works outdoors. Early warning signs of heat exposure can include both mental and physical changes in the body such as: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Dizziness/faintness 
  • Headache/ confusion 
  • Muscle’s cramping 
  • Changes to your breathing and pulse rate 
  • Heat rashes 
  • Mood changes such as increased irritation, mood changes, depression, aggression, and anger 

Now that we know what heat emergencies look like, here are some preventative measures to take, so you can stay safe and healthy! 

Physical Conditioning 

While there may be other factors involved in determining how well a person adapts to heat, such as medical conditions, it is worthwhile noting that maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle influences how well the body can adapt to the heat. Remember to get those steps in, take a fitness class or do anything active that you enjoy regularly. 30 minutes is all you need, and do not forget to eat your veggies!! 

Hazard Assessment and Control 

When hot weather is a factor, it should be considered as part of the daily Field Level Hazard Assessment (FLHA) process. When heat is recognized as a factor, the following controls and recommendations may be appropriate:   

  • Do not overexert yourself and give your body time to adapt when starting work in a hot environment. This process varies from person to person but on average it takes 4-7 working days to climatize. 
  • Ensure there are plenty of drinking fluids available, some of which must be portable water. 
  • Increase rest breaks in cool areas. 
  • Work in shaded areas when possible. 
  • Wear clothing and PPE designed to reduce heat stress. 
  • Know the signs and symptoms, watch out for each other! 

There you have it! Having awareness of the hazards that are present in extreme temperatures is incredibly important to protect your health and safety! Go out there and enjoy your summer, just do not forget to hydrate and cool off in some shade!