Protect Yourself Through the Summer Heat

Do you know why August is typically the hottest month of the year? Learn why along with 10 tips to protect yourself through the hottest of the summer heat.

Summer can be brutal for construction workers and those who work in heavy industrial environments. In fact, heat is historically the top cause of US weather-related fatalities with roughly 1,700 Americans losing their lives in 2022 alone. The CDC even reports that heat has caused more US deaths annually than hurricanes and tornadoes combined over the past thirty years.

Heat waves are growing each year in intensity and they’re typically the hottest in the month of August. This is due to cumulative warming and the high sun angle. The sun is actually at its highest position during June and July, but land and water temperatures are still warming from the winter and spring months. Once August comes around, the high sun angle along with the cumulative warming from the early summer months causes peak temperatures. It’s around this time when all of us in the Midwest are ready to be done with summer and welcome in the fall season!

But there are things you can do to protect yourself in this last stretch of summer! Here are some of the best ideas that help prevent heat illness and ensure safety during hot, humid weather:

  1. Plan Ahead: Be aware of weather forecasts, paying special attention to the heat index which combines temperature and humidity. Use this information to most effectively manage your heavy physical tasks for the right times of day and implement safety measures accordingly.
  2. Hydration: Due to the high humidity in St. Louis, sweating may not evaporate as effectively, making it harder for the body to cool down. Drink plenty of water or electrolyte beverages and drink often, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks, as they can contribute to dehydration.
  3. Wear Appropriate Clothing: Opt for lightweight, looser fitting, and breathable clothing to allow for better air circulation. Use moisture-wicking fabrics to help manage sweat. In heavy industrial settings, workers may need to wear specific protective clothing and gear. Ensure these items are designed with breathability properties to minimize heat stress.
  4. Take Smart Breaks: Make sure breaks are taken in shaded or air-conditioned areas to rest, cool down, and recover from heat stress. Shade offers protection from the sun but also from humidity. High humidity can add to the discomfort and stress on the body making cooling down during breaks even more critical.
  5. Eat Light Meals: Consume light and easily digestible meals to avoid feeling sluggish in the heat. Try eating a bigger breakfast so you’re not as hungry at lunch to keep it lighter during the day.
  6. Know the Signs: Educate yourself and your team about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke and the importance of early recognition and the proper response. If you or a co-worker experiences any symptoms, take immediate action.
  7. Buddy System: Work with a partner and look out for each other. Keep an eye on your co-workers for any signs of heat illness and encourage each other to take breaks and hydrate.
  8. Cooling Equipment: If possible, consider using fans, misting equipment, or cooling vests to help regulate body temperature throughout the day.
  9. Know Your Limits: Recognize when you are reaching your physical limits and communicate with your supervisor about your condition.
  10. Recognize and Reward Safe Behavior: Discuss best practices around heat illness prevention and offer training resources. Encourage sharing personal tips & success stories with each other related to staying safe during hot days, especially with newer team members who might not know how to best protect themselves and know what to look for. Acknowledge workers who consistently prioritize safety during hot and humid weather.

Remember, heat illness prevention is a shared responsibility. The key is a combination of awareness, preparedness, and proper care for yourself and others. By implementing these practices, you can help boost worker morale, overall well-being and productivity, and a foster a positive safety culture.