With the weather we have been experiencing lately in Minneapolis, many of us are eagerly awaiting some sunshine. Since it has been quite awhile since the last truly hot day in Minnesota, it can be easy to forget about the oppressive heat that we usually have every year here in the summer months. As such days are surely ahead, it is important that those who work outdoors prepare themselves for weather that can induce heat stress and heat stroke.

Heat stress poses extra risks to older workers, those who are overweight, have high blood pressure or heart disease or take certain medications. It is important that all outdoor workers are aware of how to prevent heat-related workplace illnesses and injuries.

Protect yourself from the heat this summer by doing the following:

  1. Take rest breaks and water breaks indoors or in the shade. Avoid alcohol, caffeinated and sugary beverages.
  2. Try to drink about one cup of water every 15 minutes or so. The goal should be to drink water frequently enough that you do not become thirsty.
  3. Instead of clothing made of synthetic fabrics that don’t breath, wear light-colored breathable fabrics like cotton.
  4. Try to schedule any heavy-duty work during cooler parts of the day.
  5. Acclimate yourself to the hot working environment by starting with shorter periods in the heat.
  6. Pay attention to your physical condition and that of other workers. If a worker begins to exhibit symptoms of heat stress, it is important for the worker to be moved to a shady and cool area to rest and drink plenty of cool water. It may also be necessary to seek medical attention.

Employers are required by law to take certain steps to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and injuries. Regardless of the cause of heat stress or a related condition, injured workers may have the right to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heat Stress,” April 11, 2014