How to Beat the Summertime Heat

By Victor Shell
Director of Safety & Transportation

Victor Shell

Now that summer is here, I’ve noticed something consistent in my visits to your stores and lumberyards — two minutes into the visit I am drenched with sweat. With temperatures already climbing into the 90s, I want to remind CSA members to make every effort to provide adequate heat protection for your employees.

Here are some tips to beat the heat:

  • Have meetings about the danger of high temperatures and the importance of staying hydrated.
  • Pay attention to the high temperature each day.
  • Make sure you have plenty of fresh, cool drinking water in the work areas.
  • Designate someone to check the water throughout the day and refill as necessary. 
  • Provide shaded areas for employees to get out of direct sunlight.
  • Determine if additional breaks are need to refresh employees.
  • Remind everyone to avoid soda and sport drinks containing high levels of caffeine and sugar.
  • Encourage everyone to wear plenty of sunscreen and sunglasses that protect from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Monitor your coworkers for signs of heat-related illness.

So what are the signs of too much heat and not enough water?

Heat Cramps
Heat Cramps are muscle pains usually the result of physical work in hot environments. Your body loses salts and fluid when you sweat. Lose too much while you’re working and you set yourself up for heat cramps. They are the first signs of heat-related illness. To treat and prevent heat cramps, replace fluid loss with small amounts of water and/or carbohydrate electrolyte liquids, like Gatorade. Don’t drink too much at a time, but keep drinking until the cramps have subsided. Take rest breaks every 15 to 20 minutes.

Heat Exhaustion
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, nauseas, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst and elevated body temperature. If someone shows symptoms of heat exhaustion, move the person from the hot area and give liquids to drink. Use cool compresses to the head, neck and face to further cool the person. If someone is unable to drink, get emergency help immediately. Have someone stay with employee until medical help arrives.

Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related problem and occurs when the internal system regulating body temperature fails and body temperature rises to critical levels. Heat stroke is a life-threatening medical emergency that may rapidly result in death! Symptoms are confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, very high body temperature, hot dry skin or profuse sweating. Use the tips in the heat exhaustion section and administer first aid. Call 911 immediately.

Everyone should be proactive when it comes to heat related illnesses. Encourage your employees to drink water frequently, to work in the shade as much as possible, to take short breaks frequently, to wear light-colored loose cotton clothing, and to keep an eye on co-workers. Make it standard procedure to notify co-workers and supervisors immediately if anyone has heat related symptoms or illnesses.

Victor Shell is CSA’s in-house expert on safety and transportation issues. His services are free to members. He’s available for a phone consult or to come to your yard and do a mock OSHA or DOT inspection. He can be reached at [email protected] or (470) 514-6729.