By Natalie Decker, Decker Consulting - Occupational Health, Safety & Wellness
The summer season gifts us with extra hours of sunlight, allowing us to enjoy more time out in the fresh air. We may join others in events, or we may do something solo. Either way, we need to be smart about how we undertake our activities. To help you do that, here are some health and safety tips and tidbits for seasonal chores or recreational outings.
Sunshine makes us smile and its warmth is wonderfully rejuvenating. It only takes about 20 minutes for our skin to absorb enough sun to make our recommended daily dose of Vitamin D, which is an immunity booster. However, the sun can also be harmful: UVA rays cause skin damage that ages us and UVB rays burn. We need to protect ourselves by wearing a sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF, and to remember to apply it to our ears, the back of the neck, and our bare feet. Another area often overlooked is our lips, for which you can buy SPF balm. And don’t forget to wear sunglasses with a UV400 rating. This helps prevent conditions that diminish your eyesight, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Children should also wear them. Putting on a wide-brimmed hat and finding shaded spots are also ways to reduce your exposure.
Our body temperature rises with the increased heat, and sweating is our body’s way to cool down. As a result, we can become dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water: aim for a minimum of 8 to 10 glasses a day. You can add flavour crystals or freeze chunks of citrus fruit or berries in the ice cube tray, to add some additional zest. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to have a beverage. Thirst is a sign that you are already dehydrated. If you experience light-headedness, nausea, or leg muscle cramps, this may indicate heat exhaustion: drink more cold liquids and move to a cool environment to pre-empt the more serious condition of heatstroke.
Whether you are an avid gardener or just starting to find your green thumb, it can be uplifting and rewarding to see the results of your hard work. Its also a great form of exercise. Most people like to wear gloves when working with soil, but if you prefer the feel of the earth on your bare hands, you can scrape your nails along a bar of soap before you dig in. The soap will keep the dirt out and make clean-up much easier. Perhaps you will grow your own vegetables, and the fresh produce will yield you extra nutritional meals.
Mowing the grass and whippersnipping can be more of a task than a pleasure, but sometimes they can’t be ignored. To protect yourself from flying rocks and debris, wear safety glasses and long pants. Proper footwear is essential: pull on some steel-toed shoes or boots. (If you slip, sandals or sneakers won’t save your toes.) Anti-vibration gloves can reduce the tingling or numbness that you may feel in your hands after using this equipment. Hearing protection is also a must, whether it be soft foam plugs or muffs—the roar and buzz can damage your ears. Once your hearing has diminished, you can never get it back, so prevention is crucial.
Perhaps you take more to the water than the land and relish the waves on water skis, a kayak, or a Sea-Doo. Wearing a Canadian-approved lifejacket or a personal flotation device (PFD) is vital. The difference is that lifejackets are designed to turn an unconscious person from being face down in the water to face up, so they can still breathe while being kept afloat. The PFD is meant for flotation only. Whichever you chose, should you capsize or fall in, neither will do you any good if it’s lying in the boat—it needs to be fitted for you, and fastened securely on you.
I really enjoy the scenery of golf greens and that clink the ball makes when the stroke hits its sweet spot. To help master your game and decrease post-swinging soreness, take a few minutes to stretch before you start. You can do gentle twists from the waist, raise a horizontal club with both hands to an overhead stretch, and lean sideways to limber up.
There are many wonderful trails to take in nature’s beauty. Most routes have documented information that you can check in advance to know the distance that you will cover, how much time is usually required, and the intensity of the terrain. The intensity advises whether the path is for beginners or experienced trailblazers. Those details provide valuable facts to help you plan your excursion. Avoid cotton socks, which hold sweat and increase the chance of blisters on your feet. Instead, wear those made of wool or synthetic material to decrease the friction.
There are lots of ways to get around. If you’re on a motorcycle or self-propelled on a skateboard or bike, make sure your helmet fits snugly and always buckle the chinstrap. The ground is hard, and that “brain bucket” can only protect what is in it.
We should be prepared to expect the unexpected, and that means having a first-aid kit readily available at home, in the car, and in a knapsack or travel bag. Essentials include hand sanitizer, an antiseptic such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol swabs, gauze sponges, tape, scissors, adhesive bandages of various sizes, a pair of tweezers, and a tube of topical antibiotic ointment, along with meds for allergy relief, nausea, and discomfort. A tetanus booster is required every ten years: ensure your vaccination is up to date in case you step on a rusty nail or cut yourself on something dirty.
No matter what your outdoor pleasure is, remember the basics of sun protection and keeping hydrated. Carry an extra snack and a small flashlight in case of excursion delays. Share activity details with someone not on the quest with you, in case unforeseen circumstances hinder your return home. Staying safe and healthy allows your exciting times to be most fun and memorable. Have an awesome summer!
Decker Consulting - Occupational Health, Safety & Wellness
Natalie Decker is the business owner of Decker Consulting-Occupational Health, Safety & Wellness. Her client span includes offshore oil and gas, marine companies, oil refining, transportation firms, federal postal services, mining, healthcare, service industries, retail and universities. Natalie holds a nationally recognized OHS designation as a Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN) as well as an OHS certification from the College of the North Atlantic. Her value for effectively meeting organizational needs is further enhanced with her business background through a Masters in Employment Relations (MER).
With 24 years of diverse experience and expertise, Natalie can provide leadership and comprehensive services that focus on Risk Mitigation processes, Health Promotion presentations, Bio-screening clinics, Medical Surveillance, Injury and Illness Management, Mental Health First Aid, and Disability Management. Natalie’s professional work ethic and competencies have proven to be an asset to employers, as she tailors programs to corporate goals and objectives to provide a higher level of wellness among the working population.
Outside of work, Natalie has a passion for gardening, enjoys travelling and loves planning leisure time activities with her family and friends.