8 Tips For Working More Safely In The Heat
July 4, 2023
Each year, thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure.1 Working in the heat can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rashes, or even death. Extreme heat also increases the risk of workplace injuries caused by sweaty hands, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness. Performing work in the heat, combined with physical exertion, drains fluids quickly from the body, leading to dehydration. Unless rehydrated, the body will no longer be able to cool itself enough to remain below the healthy threshold of 100.4°F/38°C.2
To help keep workers safer on the job, encourage them to take frequent breaks, stay hydrated, and help them choose the right weather-appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
The following tips will help reduce occupational health and safety risks related to heat:
1. Wear loose-fitting clothing. It’s best to avoid tight-fitting clothes, as these can constrain movement and restrict ventilation and sweat evaporation. When workers are exposed to the sun, long loose pants, as well as long-sleeved tops, are preferred to avoid harmful UV rays.
2. Reduce the number of layers to a minimum and try to wear a moisture-wicking base layer that absorbs sweat and helps to regulate skin temperature. In humid environments, there’s a decrease in sweat evaporation, which is very uncomfortable. Solutions include wearing high-performance synthetic materials which absorb sweat and allow quicker drying. Natural Merino wool is also a great option, as it can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture and it’s odor resistant. In extremely humid environments, Merino works best if blended with synthetic materials, to allow quicker drying.
3. Utilize PPE with more breathable materials. The Honeywell Miller® H700 Harness, for example, offers innovative, multi-layered padding specifically designed for enhanced breathability and venting. This fall protection harness keeps workers drier and cooler by combining airflow channel breathability, moisture dispersion technology, and 3D knitted fabric.
4. Protect from UV rays. Workers should use sunscreen and reapply regularly during their shift. All exposed skin areas should be covered with sunscreen, including the face, neck, ears, and forearms if wearing rolled-up sleeves.
5. Wear safety goggles with UVB/UVA protection. For example, the Uvex Stealth™ offers protection from chemical splash and impact with U6 grade–level filtering 99.9% UVB/UVA protection. Since goggles or glasses often get fogged up in the heat, the Uvex Stealth™ features Hydroshield Anti-Fog coating, offering a consistent fog-free time of 90X longer than the majority of other anti-fog products.
6. Avoid dark clothing and dark colors in general. It makes a real difference to wear lighter colors that do not absorb sunlight.
7. Don hard hats with integrated ventilation. They should also be lighter in color, lightweight, and feature a more breathable material. The Honeywell North Zone™ Hard Hat Full Brim is perfect for reflecting sunlight. It’s available in lighter colors and features a moisture-wicking, breathable sweatband, which is easily removable, washable, and replaceable.
8. Clean PPE often. Sweat is aggressive, and it may discolor the fabrics and eventually weaken them. It is also corrosive and can destroy any metallic parts affected. When reusing sweaty clothing without washing it, the bacteria and mildew rub into the skin and it can trigger skin inflammation and yeast infection, not to mention an unpleasant odor.
For more information, visit sps.honeywell.com.
1 Heat - Overview: Working in Outdoor and Indoor Heat Environments | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov) https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure