Here we are. It is late April and still feels like winter in the Pacific Northwest. We are expecting to see 70 degrees this week for the first time all year and spring is supposedly on the way.
As we head into spring, especially this late, we need to start thinking about summer weather. With the sunshine comes warmer temperatures and with them, the chance of heat-related illness.
Many people laugh when we talk about 80-90 degrees being dangerous, but there are many factors that contribute to this. It is time to think about these factors and make sure that our heat exposure programs and training are up to snuff.
For those who work in hot and sometimes humid environments, places like Phoenix or Las Vegas, or humid locations such as Houston, San Antonio, or Miami, heat may not be as much of a factor, and heat-related illness can be less of an issue. There are many reasons for this, and one is acclimatization. Another might be a natural adaptation of the population to working in those environments.
For those of us with four seasons, it is often not the case. We need to adapt to extreme cold in the winter and heat in the summer. The swings tend to be greater than they are closer to the equator. This means that we need to acclimate slowly and over time. Much like climbing rapidly from sea level to Everest base camp, this acclimatization process takes time and patience.
When we see a rapid change in the weather and heat swings of 15-30 degrees, we need to be very proactive to ensure that our workforce is hydrating, taking time to cool down and monitoring their physical well-being. These considerations should all be outlined in a heat exposure program, and we have an obligation to train our folks accordingly.
As they say, awareness is half the battle, and this is no exception. Emphasis on the importance of taking heat seriously will pay off and help to avoid even one case of heat-related illness.