A Storm of Summer Perils: The Battle for Healthy Outdoor Workers Is No Game

Posted on by Brenda Jacklitsch, PhD, MS


In HBO’s Game of Thrones, the “House Stark” clan often loudly proclaim that “winter is coming.” Here at House NIOSH, we remind our safety and health professionals, employers, and workers that,

Summer is coming


When facing the opening salvos of the Battle for Healthy Outdoor Workers, be sure to know your friends and foes. Each of the Houses below can help your workers stay safe in dangerous times, or can betray workers with hidden dangers and unexpected pitfalls.

water bottle

House Hydration

“What is hydrated can never dry”

If in the heat 2 hours or less, drink 1 cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. During prolonged sweating that lasts several hours, drink a sports drink.


House Acclimatization

“Time and heat”

Gradually increase time in hot conditions over 7–14 days. Closely supervise new employees.


House Breaks

“Rest and water”

When workers feel heat discomfort, let them take breaks. Shorten work periods and increase rest periods when temperature, humidity, and sunshine increase. Do this also when there is no air movement, if PPE is worn, and for heavier work.


House Training

“A supervisor always trains for heat”

Training should include:

  • ♚ signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses,
  • ♚ first aid,
  • ♚ risk factors,
  • ♚ acclimatization,
  • ♚ symptoms reporting procedures,
  • ♚ monitoring weather reports, and
  • ♚ adequate fluid intake and rest breaks.
frowny face

House Heat Stroke

“Sweat or no sweat, to the death!”

Heat stroke is an emergency that can rapidly lead to death. Cool the worker down quickly and call 911.

ivy leaf

House Poisonous Plants

“Touch or burn and regret”

Touching a poisonous plant can result in an itchy rash. Burning a poisonous plant can result in breathing difficulties which is an emergency.


House Sunscreen

“Reapply, reapply, reapply”

Wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15 and reapply at least every 2 hours.


House Sun Exposure

“Burn them all!”

Severe sunburns covering more than 15% of the body, or with dehydration, high fever, and/or extreme pain need medical attention.


House Tick

“Small with a mighty bite”

Because of their small size, ticks can be hard to detect. Be sure to find them, though, because they may carry diseases. You will need tweezers to remove them.


House Stinging Insect

“Our stingers are sharp”

Never swat at a stinging insect, and closely monitor your food and drinks to ensure an insect does not crawl inside. Carry an EpiPen if you know you are allergic.


House Mosquito

“Fly. Bite. Infect.”

Infected mosquitoes can spread diseases such as West Nile virus. Rid the worksite of standing water to reduce places where mosquitoes lay eggs.

aerosol can

House Repellent

“Spray to keep away”

Apply repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus or paramenthane-diol to exposed skin. Use permethrin on clothing and gear.

With appropriate prevention in place at worksites, including adequate training, you should overhear your employees saying, “I drink water and I know things.”



For more information see the NIOSH Hazards to Outdoor Workers topic page.

Brenda Jacklitsch, PhD, MS, of House NIOSH, the First of Her Name, Lady of the Education and Information Division, the Health Scientist, Queen of the NIOSH Small Business Program, Protector of Outdoor Workers, Khaleesi of Hot Environments, Breaker of Bad Work Practices, and Mother of Two Dragons.

Posted on by Brenda Jacklitsch, PhD, MS

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Page last reviewed: May 17, 2019
Page last updated: May 17, 2019