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Employee Safety Tips: Working Outdoors in Summer Heat

By David Goguen | Last updated on

Jobs that take employees outside definitely have their appeal, especially to the office-based cubicle crowd. But people whose line of work requires them to be outdoors in the hot summer months -- from construction and agriculture workers to parks employees -- face unique health hazards. So, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is offering some tips on Working Outdoors in Warm Climates.

Clothing and Sunscreen. Employees who are working outside in the heat should wear light, loose-fitting clothing. But to avoid harmful UV rays, stick to long pants (no shorts) and long-sleeved shirts, and apply plenty of sunscreen.

Breaks for Water and Shade. If you're working in the heat, your employer should provide you with plenty of water, and breaks to drink it. Drink small amounts frequently, rather than a lot of water all at once. If your work is particularly strenuous and takes place in direct sunlight, you should also be given regular work breaks in a "shade tent" or other rest area.

Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion: What to Watch Out For. The combination of high temperature, high humidity, and physical exertion that comes with some outdoor jobs raises the risk that workers will suffer heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Some warning signs are headaches, lightheadedness, confusion, irrational behavior, loss of consciousness, abnormally high body temperature and hot, dry skin. Learn more: Protect Yourself from Heat Stress.

Lyme Disease, Poison Ivy, and West Nile Virus. Working in the great outdoors -- especially in the summer months -- can mean exposure to some of Mother Nature's less pleasurable offerings, including ticks that can carry Lyme Disease and other bacteria, mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile Virus, and poisonous plants that can cause skin problems.

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