July 17, 2019

Be Safe Outside - Heat and Other Outdoor Summer Hazards

Hot weather can be Dangerous!  

High temperatures can lead to serious heat-related illness.  Outdoor workers, including water, wastewater, parks, groundskeepers, public works, streets, police and fire can be exposed to physical and biological hazards during summer months. Employers should train outdoor workers about their workplace hazards, including hazard identification and recommendations for preventing and control exposures.   

The Kentucky League of Cities Insurance Services (KLCIS) Loss Control team recommends several key tips for safety in the extreme heat. 

  • Extreme heat can cause heatstroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat rash.  Take short breaks and hydrate throughout the work shift. 
  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause sunburn and skin cancer.  Limit skin exposure (long sleeves/pants and hats) and use sunscreen- reapply frequently. 
  • Mosquitoes and ticks can spread diseases.  To reduce risk, limit skin exposure and use a repellent. 
  • Animal threats include venomous snakes, spiders, and stinging insects.  Wear heavy boots and chaps in areas where these risks may be present. 
  • Poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac from skin contact can also be dangerous respiratory hazards if they are burned.  In addition to long sleeves and pants, use barrier creams prior to exposure and thoroughly wash affected areas immediately after exposure. 

You can also have employees download a free mobile "NIOSH Heat Safety Tool Smartphone App."  The app can help workers and supervisors monitor heat-related conditions and warning signs in employees.  Visit the OSHA website for more information and more tips for heat-related safety.  

For the Public:   State Health Officials Issue Safety Guidelines for Warmer Temperatures
On July 17, 2019 officials with the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH), located within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS), released a statement to urge the public to take steps to avoid injury and illness during periods of extreme summertime heat.

Here are some general tips to avoid heat-related injury and illness:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Increase your normal fluid intake regardless of your activity level. You will need to drink more fluids than your thirst level indicates. This is especially true for people age 65 or older who often have a decreased ability to respond to external temperature changes. In addition, avoid drinking beverages containing alcohol, because they will actually cause you to lose more fluid.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Choose lightweight, light colored, loose fitting clothing. In the hot sun, wear a wide-brimmed hat that will provide shade and keep the head cool. Sunscreen should be SPF 15 or greater, and should be applied 30 minutes before going out into the sun.
  • Stay cool indoors. The most efficient way to beat the heat is to stay in an air-conditioned area. If you do not have an air conditioner, consider visiting a mall or public library.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully.  If you must be out in the heat, try to plan your activities so that you are outdoors either before noon or in the evening. Rest periodically so your body’s thermostat has a chance to recover.
  • Do not keep children or pets in cars. Temperatures inside a car without open windows can reach over 150 degrees quickly, resulting in heat stroke and death.
  • Use a buddy system. When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness.
  • Check on your neighbors and monitor those at high risk. Those at greatest risk of heat-related illness include:  Infants and children up to 4 years of age; people 65 years of age or older; people who are overweight; people who overexert during work or exercise; people who are ill or on certain medications for blood pressure or diuretics
  • Signs and symptoms of heat-related illness include:
    • Dehydration – Dehydration is caused by excessive loss of water and salts from the body. Severe dehydration can become life-threatening if not treated.
    • Heat Cramps – Heat cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms often occurring in your calves, abdomen and back. Rest for several hours and drink clear juice or an electrolyte-containing drink.
    • Heat Exhaustion – Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much water and salt from sweating during hot temperatures. Older adults, people who work outside and those with high blood pressure are most at risk for heat exhaustion. Continued exposure may lead to heat stroke, which is life threatening.
    • Heat Stroke – Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures or by performing physical activity in hot weather. Sweating has usually stopped and your body temperature becomes too high. Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and you should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention for this illness.

For more general information on preventing heat-related illness visit the Extreme Heat information page on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.