Working outdoors on a regular basis can expose employees to risks that can dramatically increase in the summer heat. Heat exhaustion, heat stress and heatstroke can be serious complications for both first-time and seasoned workers. Unfortunately, 50% to 70% of outdoor job fatalities occur in the first few days of working in hot environments. Railroad workers specifically can be at risk of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, as their jobs require long and intense hours in the sun.
Without the right prevention tools, rigorous physical activity coupled with intense heat and the risk of dehydration can be extremely dangerous. Certified athletic trainers, or health care professionals who help prevent and treat injuries, may offer specific steps toward effective heat illness prevention for those with outdoor jobs.
4 tips athletic trainers may suggest to help employees fight the summer heat
Heat illnesses occur if the body cannot get rid of excess heat. Without proper prevention, an employee’s core temperature and heart rate can spike, and they can lose concentration and the desire to drink. Continuous heat, without proper care, can cause an employee to experience a range of mild to severe symptoms. Heatstroke, the most serious symptom, can be fatal.
If your employees primarily work outdoors, including on the railroad, then they should know how to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries. Athletic trainers may offer your employees a variety of helpful advice, like:
- Wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing.
While working an outdoor job in direct sunlight, what you wear matters. Dark colors absorb light and heat, making it difficult for workers to cool off. Thick clothing also makes it difficult for workers’ skin to cool and their sweat to evaporate. Light colors, on the other hand, can reflect heat and maintain employees’ core temperatures at healthy levels. Lightweight clothing also helps more air pass over the skin, allowing sweat to cool down the body.
- Replenishing fluids on a regular basis.
Access to cool drinking water can help lower the body’s core temperature. It can also be essential to preventing dehydration and replacing lost fluids, especially since outdoor jobs lead to heavy sweating. If the water found in sweat is not replaced soon enough, dehydration can occur. This can be extremely dangerous in high temperatures and can lead to symptoms like vomiting and fainting.
- Acclimating by gradually increasing exposure to heat over a two-week period.
The body needs to acclimate to extreme temperatures before it is thrown into a high-heat environment. Workers who are new to their outdoor job need to be especially careful, since their bodies are brand new to working in the heat. It is recommended that new workers expose themselves to 20% of extreme heat at a time. Proper acclimation can help prepare the body and prevent severe heat-related illnesses.
- Taking breaks in the shade whenever possible.
Taking breaks in the shade or air conditioning can help employees cool down in the middle of a hot shift. Doing so can help them lessen their chances of heat-related illnesses. Supervisors can also try to arrange the most intense outdoor jobs in shady areas. If this cannot be done, then they can schedule the most intense work for early morning, when the sun isn’t as strong. Supervisors can also rotate workers throughout the day so that employees take turns in direct sunlight.
Work-Fit can help companies keep their outdoor employees safe in the summer heat
If an employee does experience symptoms ranging from heat stress to heatstroke, it is important for surrounding workers to know what to do. Work-Fit’s athletic trainers can help prevent heat-related illness through educational programming. If an employee does experience heat illness during their outdoor job, Work-Fit’s athletic trainers can be there, administering first aid as needed. Contact our team today for more information about our services or to learn how we can help keep your employees work fit.