Temperatures have already been soaring in Perth as we get into the full swing of summer, and they’re only set to rise—the hottest month of the year in Perth is usually February.
Last February, Perth residents saw their thermostats reach a whopping 44.5 °C. The extreme heat and sun can create a dangerous environment for those working outdoors.
The team at Fremantle Plumbing is knowledgeable about more than just blocked drains, Perth. Because we’re all too familiar with working outside in summer, we want to pass on our advice for dealing with summer working conditions to our customers.
Read on to learn more about how working outdoors in summer can spell danger and our top tips for working outside this summer.
Looking for more summer tips? Check out Fremantle Plumbing’s tips for getting your business summer ready.
Most of us enjoy spending at least a bit of time in the sun during summer. Exposure to sunlight is actually necessary for our health too since the sun provides us with the majority of our vitamin D. However, this fact is often misinterpreted to mean that we should purposely expose ourselves to the sun in order to get enough vitamin D—this isn’t true at all in Perth.
When the UV level index is at a level 3 or above, most people will produce enough vitamin D simply through incidental exposure to the sun. This means that just through activities like walking your dog or doing a spot of gardening, you’ll have had enough sun exposure for your body to produce sufficient vitamin D. In Perth, average summer UV levels get up to 11—that’s exceedingly high and dangerous for our skin.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, and the proportion of cancer diagnoses that can be attributed to UV radiation is 96.1%—yes, more than 96% of all forms of cancer diagnosed in Australia can be linked to UV radiation.
How to protect against the sun
When UV levels are above 3—as they generally always are in Perth no matter the season—sun protection is required. There are several measures you need to take to protect yourself from the sun this summer when you’re working outside.
You need to be applying plenty of high-factor (at least SPF 30) sunscreen on any exposed skin. Make it a habit to wear sunscreen every day, and put a bottle of sunscreen in your work bag.
Don’t take this bottle out of your bag to use when you head to the beach on the weekend—make it exclusively for work. This way you’ll never discover you’ve forgotten your sunscreen when you arrive for work. If you do ever forget, borrow some sunscreen from a colleague or grab a new bottle at the shop—never go without!
You should try to cover up as much as possible with long sleeves, pants, covered shoes, and a hat that helps cover your face, ears, and the back of your neck as much as possible. And before you start to worry, yes, your body can still generate sufficient vitamin D through sunlight even when you do cover up.
UV rays can be just as harmful for your eyes as they are for your skin. UV light ages all structures of the eye, and can cause cataracts, corneal damage, and other diseases that can all eventually lead to loss of vision.
Specialist UV protection sunglasses prevent UV rays from reaching your eyes. Look for glasses that block 100% of UV radiation. Investing in polarised lens sunglasses should also be considered.
Avoid being in the sun as much as possible
‘But I work outdoors!’, you’re thinking. Even so, it’s possible to limit our sun exposure by carrying out as many tasks as possible in the shade. Installing shade netting over ongoing job sites is highly recommended.
For tasks that must be done in the sun, try to complete them early in the morning or late in the afternoon as this is when UV radiation is weakest. Take regular breaks in the shade.
While these measures are recommended throughout the year in Perth, they are especially important during the summer months when the UV index levels are at their highest. If you’re going to be spending significant time outside (such as on a job site), it couldn’t be more vital for you to take precautions.
Did you know you can claim tax deductions in Western Australia for sun protection products if you’re required to work outdoors?
As mentioned, last summer we saw temperatures of 44.5 °C—not far off the hottest temperature ever recorded in Perth which was 46.7 °C in 1991. Summer 2021-2022 was an absolute scorcher with Perth recording a record-breaking 11 days above 40 °C in a single summer.
Most of us know about the dangers of the sun (even if we don’t fully appreciate them), but people are often much more complacent about the dangers of heat. Working in extreme heat isn’t just uncomfortable and sweaty, it poses real threats to health.
Heat stress occurs when our bodies’ means of controlling our internal temperature begin to fail. Heat stress can become very serious, very quickly. A person suffering from heat stress will often feel generally unwell, they’ll lack concentration, get cramps in their muscles, and then faint. If the situation becomes more serious, heat stress can result in heatstroke—symptoms of which include confusion, convulsions, and unconsciousness. Heatstroke can be fatal.
Aside from the air temperature, other factors like how strenuous the work you’re doing is, humidity, and the clothing you’re wearing (including PPE) while working can also contribute to heat stress.
Heat stress symptoms include:
- Feeling sick
- Being very thirsty
- Fast breathing and/or pulse
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Cramps in the stomach, legs, and arms
- Pale skin
How to protect against the heat
With Australia seeming to get hotter and hotter every summer, it’s more important than ever to know how to battle against the heat.
This might sound rudimentarily obvious, but drinking enough water is one of the most important measures you can take against heat. While the general advice is to drink around 2 litres of water a day, this isn’t enough for when you’re working outdoors in the heat and sun.
When working in heat, you should be drinking small amounts but very frequently—approximately 200 ml every 15-20 minutes. You won’t start feeling thirsty until you’ve lost 1–2% of your body fluids, so it’s important to drink frequently even if you don’t yet feel thirsty.
If you’re consuming a lot of water, you’re also depleting your body’s sodium and electrolyte levels so switching a drink of water for a sports drink can be beneficial along with eating small but frequent nutritious meals.
Cold water serves a double purpose of keeping you hydrated (allowing you to sweat) and immediately cooling you down. Rotate bottles of water in the fridge if you have access to one, or consider freezing bottles of water to bring with you.
Go to bed early
Lack of sleep can really impact you in the heat so it’s important you’re keeping well-rested. Going to bed early will give you more time to sleep, but can also prevent you from being woken up by the heat of the morning before you’ve had enough sleep.
Wear heat-friendly clothes
Stay away from synthetic materials as these are generally not breathable. Natural fibres like cotton are breathable and they have superior wicking capabilities—meaning they quickly absorb sweat, allowing it to dry. Opt for clothing that is pale or white in colour as more sunlight will be reflected by the clothing rather than absorbed. As soon as it’s safe to do so, remove any PPE that is hot to wear.
Head into AC whenever possible
If you’ve got a 20-minute break, take it indoors where there’s air conditioning. Use your vehicle if you have to. Even short breaks in a cooler place can greatly reduce the chances of heat stress.
The Australian summer is no joke. Soaring temperatures and the blazing sun are fierce enemies for those that will be working outdoors this summer. It’s vital you take care of yourself this summer—the team at Fremantle is more than acquainted with working outdoors during the formidable Perth summers
To recap, if you’re going to be working outdoors this summer, you should:
- Slather on SPF 30 or above sunscreen
- Wear cool clothing that covers your skin
- Avoid the sun (whenever possible)
- Drink small amounts of water frequently
- Occasionally drink a sports drink
- Go to bed early
- Take advantage of AC whenever you can
Do you need an emergency plumber, Perth? The team at Fremantle Plumbing have been the go-to drain experts since 1952. Today, we offer comprehensive and wide-ranging plumbing and gas services for our residential and commercial customers. If you need a plumber, Fremantle Plumbing is the solution—get in touch with us today.