Working in the heat can take a toll—and even become a dangerous situation if the proper precautions aren’t taken in advance. Whether you’re a homeowner looking to tackle some outdoor landscaping or gardening—or you’re in charge of a landscape business and want to keep your crews safe—understanding heat stress and heat-related illness can be lifesaving information.
We’re filling you in on what you ought to know so that you can take these concerns seriously.
When it comes to working outdoors, having the proper gear can make all of the difference in the world. Some of the common considerations include sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and possibly even a lightweight long sleeve shirt for full sun protection. You’ll also want to make sure that you—or your crews—have easy access to plenty of cold water and a cool area for breaks.
If you can avoid being outdoors on the hottest days or at least moving the work a little later into the day (so that you’re not outside when the sun is at its highest intensity) that can help you to avoid a heat-related emergency.
However, we also understand that’s not always possible. If you or your crews must be outside during the hottest part of the day, make sure to take breaks in the shade, indoors, or in an air-conditioned vehicle.
If you’re with a landscaping company, make a regular habit out of scouting for shade on every job site—and if there is none, set up a tent or canopy. It can be easy to lose track of time when working outdoors, so set a timer if you need reminders to take breaks and drink plenty of water. It is these measures that can help prevent a medical emergency.
Know the Signs
Taking preventative measures to protect yourself (or your crews) also means becoming familiar with the signs of heat-related illnesses. Oftentimes, these can come on fast and potentially become life threatening so it’s important that you know what to look for.
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a division of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and occurs when the body loses its ability to control temperature. When this emergency situation occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees or higher within a mere 10 minutes. This can lead to death if emergency treatment is not provided. Symptoms of heat stroke include the following.
- Confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Very high body temperature
If you suspect heat stroke, call 911 and move the individual to a shaded area. Remove outer clothing and wet the skin with cold water or even ice. Circulate the air around the person to speed cooling.
Heat Exhaustion is another serious heat-related condition that needs to be addressed swiftly. According to NIOSH, heat exhaustion is the body’s response to excessive loss of water and salt through excessive sweating.
Signs of heat exhaustion include the following.
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature
- Decreased urine output
If heat exhaustion is expected in you or someone else, move into the shade immediately and take frequent sips of cool water. Remove unnecessary clothing and apply compresses. You may also need to seek medical attention.
Heat Cramps are another heat-related condition and occurs from excessive sweating while working. According to NIOSH, sweating can deplete the body’s salt and moisture levels and lead to painful muscle cramps—though muscle cramps can also be an additional symptom of Heat Exhaustion.
If you (or a worker) is experiencing muscle cramps, pain, and spasms while working in the heat, take a break to drink water and have a snack and/or a carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquid. Repeat this every 15 to 20 minutes. If cramps do not subside within one hour, seek medical attention.
We Want You to Stay Safe
At Nature’s Mulch and Landscape Supply, we love supporting our customers’ outdoor landscaping needs. But we also care deeply about your safety. Working outdoors and transforming lawns and landscapes can be incredibly rewarding—but it’s so important that the work doesn’t put your health at risk. By taking some preventative steps and remaining vigilant in paying attention to signs of trouble, you can prevent serious heat-related problems.