Originally published on August 1, 2019
Air conditioning systems commonly need the attention of contractors at the very hottest points of the summer. While customers seek relief from the heat, HVAC system experts face the unique obligation of dealing with extreme temperatures. As business picks up during the summertime, it is crucial to have a heat illness prevention program in place to keep your employees safe and your business running smoothly.
There are a number of health threats brought on during the summertime, including heat-related illness and food poisoning. Here are 5 tips to stay healthy while servicing homes during the hot summer months.
You need more water than you think
Water is the mechanism that carries heat away from your internal organs; With just 2 percent water loss, you can experience serious fatigue and cardiovascular impairments. It’s crucial to consciously remember to drink water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
The FDA recommends drinking between 2 and 4 liters (approximately 8-16 cups) of water a day. Refill your water bottle as soon as it’s empty and keep it by your side. With increased temperature and physical activity, try to drink 1 liter for every hour that you’re active; set a timer on your phone to check in with your intake. Your iced coffee or iced tea will also help to hydrate you. Contrary to popular belief, in moderation and with extra ice, caffeinated beverages will actually help your body get the water it needs.
Keep a cooler of ice in the car
There are a few reasons a cooler of ice on hand can help prevent illness. First, food poisoning is very common in the summer. While keeping food in a paper bag for a few hours is usually okay, the heat of the summer promotes the growth of harmful bacteria in food that can trigger serious sickness. The dehydration caused by food poisoning can put employees at risk for extended periods of time. Investing in a cooler for yourself and your employees can protect your business’ productivity and safety.
Second, a cooler of ice in the car gives you a space to cool off and add ice to your drink. If you are working in an extremely hot environment, it will be important to take a break at least once every hour to the coolest spot available. When all else fails, holding an ice cube to your wrist or neck will help you quickly reduce your body temperature.
Avoid foods that heat you up
It takes a lot of energy for your body to break down large, high protein meals all at once. In fact, high protein foods can actually heat up your body. On hot summer days, it’s a good idea to swap out large bacon and egg breakfasts for smaller, high-carbohydrate meals throughout the day. Water-rich foods like apples and berries are a cooling alternative that can give your body the energy it needs in high-heat environments.
Wear lightweight, breathable fabrics
When it comes to company attire, the investment in a lightweight, breathable fabric for your employees can protect them from the heat during the summer without any negative consequences during the colder months. Although a t-shirt may feel lightweight, synthetic fabrics like polyester and rayon trap sweat and odors inside. Cotton is the most cost-efficient breathable fabric, but for a little extra cost, engineered moisture-wicking fabrics can ensure your comfort on the job.
Know the signs of heat-related illness
Contractors are especially susceptible to serious injury and even death in the summer as a result of heat-related illnesses such as severe dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. The American Heart Association recommends familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of each heat-related illness in order to safely stay active and working during hot weather.
There are a few particularly serious symptoms to look out for including nausea, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, and fatigue.
If you experience any of these symptoms:
- Sit down and sip cold water and ice cubes
- Put a cold, wet towel around your neck
- Move to an air-conditioned building or car as soon as possible
- Seek medical attention if your condition doesn’t improve or gets worse
Do you have a favorite hack for keeping your cool through the hottest days of summer? Share it with us in the comments. Your fellow contractors will thank you.