Water, Shade, and Rest
There are three key strategies to staying healthy and preventing heat illness while working outdoors on hot days: water, shade, and rest. In our recent post on being heat savvy, we covered the importance of drinking water to help our bodies maintain a healthy body temperature. Here, we will review the two other strategies—shade and rest—that can help reduce the risk of heat illness while working outdoors in the heat.
What is the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke?
- Heat exhaustion: Dizziness, heavy sweating, nausea, weakness
- Heat stroke: Confusion, red, hot, and dry skin, fainting
California’s Heat Illness Prevention in Outdoor Places of Employment regulation defines shade as the blockage of direct sunlight. The shaded area must be large enough to allow several workers to cool down at the same time without touching. Cool-down breaks are a worker’s right under California’s heat regulation. The cool-down break should be at least 5 minutes in the shade.
If you are feeling dizzy, nauseous, are heavily sweating, have cramps, weakness, and/or a headache, you may be suffering from heat exhaustion—a serious heat illness—and need to move to the shade to cool down. Once you are under the shade, remove extra layers of clothing and fan yourself. Drink water and remain in the shade until you feel better. No worker should be asked to go back to work until feeling cooled down.
In addition to taking care of yourself, keep an eye on your co-workers. If you notice that a coworker looks disoriented, confused, is having convulsions, or has fainted, they may be suffering from heat stroke, which is a potentially fatal heat-related illness. Move the person to the shade, inform the supervisor, and make sure paramedics are called.
Although the California heat regulation allows workers to take cool-down breaks while working outdoors, it is important to think about the quality of rest after work. To help your body recuperate after a day of working hard in the heat, take a cool shower to help lower your body temperature. Also, try to sleep in a cool room. Prepare the room by opening the windows and using a fan to lower the temperature before going to bed. You will sleep better when the room is cool, allowing you to feel rested and ready to start another day of work.
To reduce the risk of heat illness, remember these three strategies: water, shade, and rest.
While the above described California heat regulation is only for outdoor work, working indoors in high temperatures can also cause heat illness. The California Occupational Safety & Standards Board is drafting a new standard titled, Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment. The Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment will likely be voted on in 2024.