Wellness at Work: Keeping Cool On the Worksite

A male construction worker wearing a hard hat sits next to his tool bag while drinking water on a hot day.

When you’re on the job, safety is the top priority. Wearing protective gear, following the correct guidelines and being aware of your surroundings are all key parts of staying safe. If you’re a seasoned worker, they’re likely second nature. 

But the summer adds another wrinkle to the equation: heat. Working on a hot day is tough. If you don’t know how to read the signals your body is sending, the consequences can be dire. Warehouse and construction hiring is ramping up for the summer months, and you might be working in the heat for the first time. Here’s a quick look at how to deal with heat at the jobsite. 


1. Hydrate and avoid dehydration

Staying hydrated is by far the most important thing you can do on a hot worksite. Be proactive about it. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, it’s not always the best way to know if you need water. Instead, drink something every 15 or 20 minutes and prior to starting work.

In general, water is best, though a sports drink can also do the trick. Cut down on non-water drinks, especially caffeine and energy drinks. Caffeine dehydrates you, avoiding it during the summer is your best bet.

Pay attention to your meals. It’s best to avoid a big lunch, as your body lets off more heat while breaking it down. Instead, eat light snacks throughout the day. When picking something to eat, look for veggies and fruit. They replenish electrolytes, making them great snacks. 


2. Dress for the job

You can’t change the temperature, but you can be prepared for it. Make sure you’re dressed for the weather. You want to protect yourself from the sun as best as possible.

Wear a hat, and make sure your skin is mostly covered. It’s tempting to wear as little as possible, but exposing your skin to the sun can lead to sunburn and heatstroke. You don’t need to wear long sleeves, but don’t go shirtless either. Wrapping a cold towel around your neck also helps keep you cool.

Sunscreen is important. Sunburn is a constant threat during hot days, and the worst cases could keep you off the job. If possible, work and take breaks in the shade. 


3. Know the signs

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are incredibly dangerous and potentially fatal. Know the signs and do not, under any circumstances, ignore them. 

Heat exhaustion comes first. Dizziness, heavy sweating, cold skin, nausea and a fast, weak pulse are all signs of heat exhaustion. If these happen to you or a coworker, move to a cool place right away. From there, put on cool clothes, loosen what you’re currently wearing and sip water if you can. If your symptoms last longer than an hour, get worse or if you throw up, get medical attention right away. 

Heatstroke is a more serious condition, with some of the same symptoms of heat exhaustion. The key differentiator is a lack of sweating, vomiting, passing out, and general confusion. 

If any of these occur, call 911 immediately. Heatstroke is an emergency, you cannot deal with it on site. While you wait for help to arrive, move the person to a cool place and give them a cool bath if possible. Do not give them anything to drink. 

Heat is a normal part of any outdoor job. When you deal with it correctly, it’s just an annoyance. You might sweat and be a bit uncomfortable, but you’ll be able to work without issue. 

But you’ve got to actively manage it. Drink water, dress properly and be vigilant for any signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. You will be glad you did. 

To stay updated on the weather and heat conditions in your area download the OSH/NIOSH Heat Safety Tool app for added guidance.

If you’re looking to work in warehousing or construction this summer, contact Aerotek today