By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

Well, here we are, the dog days of summer. What does that mean exactly? I have always assumed that it meant “days that are not even fit for a dog.”  But the Farmers’ Almanac tells us that the dog days of summer are from July 3rd to August 11th of every year. It also tells us that the meaning has nothing to do with our pets.

The phrase is in reference to Sirius, the Dog Star. During the “dog days” the sun occupies that same region of the sky as the sun. The Dog Star is part of the constellation Canis Major, which means the greater dog. The star rises and sets with the sun and the Romans believed that it gave off heat adding to the sun’s effect on the earth, thus resulting in the sultry weather we experience during this time.

During these dog days, I want to ask what are you doing to keep your road department employees safe during the sultry weather? Working in the hot temperatures you should be aware of the two most common heat-related illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It’s important to keep in mind that higher humidity levels combined with high temperatures result in dangerous heat index levels, which contribute to heat related illnesses. Below are the symptoms of both illnesses and the possible treatments.

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms

  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Excessive sweating
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid weak pulse
  • Muscle cramps

Treatment

  • Get to a cool, air-conditioned place.
  • Drink water if fully conscious.
  • Take a cool shower.
  • Use a cold compress.

Heatstroke

Symptoms

  • Throbbing headache
  • No sweating
  • Body temperature above 103 degrees
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Loss of consciousness

Treatment

  • Call 911
  • Take immediate action to cool the worker until help arrives.
  • Use a cold compress
  • Get to a cool air-conditioned location
  • Take a cool shower
  • Begin CPR if person shows no sign of breathing or heartbeat

An important part of your safety training should be educating your crews to be able to recognize and respond to these illnesses. I also do not want you to forget training for the reporting part on how your department is going to manage these situations.

Another important note to remember is that staying hydrated can help prevent heat related illnesses. It is recommended to drink at least eight ounces of water three to four times an hour, without waiting until you are thirsty. It is best to start this practice BEFORE the hottest part of the day. Begin in the morning and carry it out through the entire day. Avoid caffeine, sugary soft drinks, and alcohol.

Also remember to take frequent breaks in the shade if possible. Your exertion level can also contribute to heat illnesses. The harder you are working, the higher your core body temperature is going to be. Do not forget if you have extenuating health conditions that can put you at a higher risk, you need to manage that also.

I have included a heat index chart from the national weather service to help you make informed decisions about managing the heat and your workload during the “Dog Days of Summer.”  This will help you understand how the hot weather feels to the body.

Heat Index Chart

If you need help with your safety training or program, do not hesitate to contact any of us in NIRMA’s Loss Prevention Department for help. I can be reached at kcpawling@nirma.info. I look forward to hearing from you!