Working In The Heat This Summer?
As you all know, the harsh Australian heat can quite easily put you at risk of dehydration and heat stress if you spend any prolonged period of time either working outside, or indoors in high temperatures and poor ventilation. Heat related-illnesses are commonly caused by workers being exposed to direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day, or to reflected heat from construction materials, such as polished aluminium and glass, or even to additional heat emitted by the machinery itself.
We want you to be careful out there this summer! So, here are some top tips on how to ensure you stay safe while working;
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty
If you get to the stage where you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Pre-hydrate by drinking plenty of fluids in the hours before your shift so you don’t start the day with a fluid deficit. However, these fluids must be the ‘right’ sort of fluids; limit caffeine intake, as caffeine has a diuretic effect which increases water loss and contributes to dehydration. Secondly, avoid alcohol before your shift. Consuming alcohol even up to 24-36 hours before your shift can lead to severe dehydration.
Carry a drinks bottle with you at all times as you’re more inclined to drink fluid when it’s readily available. Bottle pouches can fit to tool belts, and if you don’t wear tool belts, you can wear a hydration backpack. Aim to drink around 800ml each hour. Finally, avoid ice cold drinks; cold water causes the blood vessels in the stomach to constrict, which in turn, reduces the rate of fluid absorption.
Shield from the sun
There are a number of different ways in which you should shield yourself from the sun. Firstly, your clothing; cover up. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible, accompanied by a wide-brim hat and perhaps a neck tie, finished off with a pair of UV rated sunglasses. Sun-cream is a second factor; make sure your sun-cream is long-lasting, covers you with the highest possible levels of UV protection, and is water resistant to cater for inevitable sweating when working for long hours in the melting sun.
Thirdly, beware of your surroundings. Set up shade structures of use umbrellas, buildings, trees, whatever you can to shield you from the sun! Try to avoid working directly in the sun during the peak heat hours between 11.00am-4.00pm, and make sure you take breaks to cool off in the shade or air-conditioning, to ensure you don’t over-exert yourself. Finally, take adequate meal breaks; food contains water and is one of the primary means by which we replace lost fluids on a daily basis.
Drink an electrolyte drink
When working in the heat, heavy sweating can cause you to lose a substantial amount of electrolytes. Electrolytes are certain nutrients in your body that perform numerous functions, from regulating your heartbeat to allowing your muscles to contract so that you can move. Replenishing lost electrolytes will allow you to keep performing at your peak, and will help to keep muscle cramps and dehydration at bay.
If you are new to working in the heat, or perhaps if you have had any heat-related issues in the past, we hope that these brief top tips can help you stay safe this summer!