Protect Your Crew from the Heat
It’s mid-July and the heat and humidity have already become relentless.
Being in the sun is fun for brief periods of time, but for those of us who work in warm conditions for a living, hydration and heat exposure are risks to our health and performance. Follow these tips to keep your team performing well and avoid getting depleted by the sun.
Ways to cool off
The human body can be cooled in several ways. One way is by convection, where heat is removed from the skin’s surface by moving air currents. Fans and blowing air conditioning produce this effect and are a great way to remove heat from hot skin. If your team works in a warehouse, lawn care center or anywhere it is semi-enclosed, consider providing fans and cooling units throughout the work area.
Another cheap way to get cool is by using the physics of conduction. This occurs when the skin is pressed up against something cool and heat is transferred from the body to that object. Providing metal chairs in a cool area can make for a good break room; the metal on skin will help people cool down faster.
The greatest way the body cools down is through evaporation, where the skin is cooled off simply from water evaporating off its surface. Sweat on the skin is evaporated into the air and heat is released when this happens. If a person is dehydrated, not enough water can be excreted through the skin and heat remains trapped within the body. If the body cannot release this excess heat, the core temperature could rise and the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke increases. Therefore, it is very important to keep your team hydrated at all times.
Obviously, water is the best thing to help our bodies remain cool and keep those internal systems functioning properly. Still, most of us fail to drink enough water and we remain in a constant state of dehydration. If you don’t like the taste of water, no problem. Use flavored drink mixes like Dasani Drops or Crystal Lite to make your tongue happy. Popsicles are another great way to add water while cooling off your insides. And if you can provide fleshy fruit like watermelon, peaches and cantaloupe to your team, this will also keep that hydration level up.
If your team is working hard in the heat for more than an hour, you will also need to provide a sports drink like Powerade or Gatorade. When we work hard, especially if it’s outdoors, we lose electrolytes, and these types of drinks help replace vital minerals needed for our cells to keep working.
Here’s where trying to stay cool and perform well gets tricky. Most of us know we need to be hydrated, but we fail to realize that humidity plays a considerable role in this equation.
When the air is saturated with water (humidity), it’s harder for the sweat on our skin to evaporate. Our hearts will begin to pump harder in an effort to push more blood to the surface of the skin to cool down. Even if the temperature isn’t crazy hot, but the humidity is high, we can still experience the effects of heat exhaustion. At best, our performance will be drastically undercut. Ever go swimming in a pool that’s over 85 degrees? After about 10 minutes, you feel yourself huffing and puffing and needing a break from sharks and minnows.
Using a urine chart (find a printable version at ehealthstar.com), check your hydration level several times a day. Urine should be almost clear or barely yellow when you are properly hydrated. To tell overall how well your body is holding up in the heat, wear a heart rate monitor and track your heart rate. When we get overheated or have worked beyond our limits, you see the heart rate climb higher and higher. It’s a key indicator that we need to cool down and stop working.
Follow these tips and you’ll continue to perform safely throughout the summer. July 15, 2018