Mzansi hit with searing temperatures: Use these safety tips when working in the sun

It is important to cool off during a heatwave. Picture: Canva Germany GmbH

It is important to cool off during a heatwave. Picture: Canva Germany GmbH

Published Feb 14, 2024


The country should brace for hot temperatures and sporadic showers this Valentine’s weekend.

This is according to posts by the South African Weather Service (Saws) on X, formerly known as Twitter. The nation’s centre and eastern areas will be severely affected by these high temperatures.

Extreme heat, according to the National Department of Health, can induce dehydration, cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, which causes damage to the brain, kidneys, and other organs, and can result in death.

“Urban heat islands are hotter than surrounding areas as concrete and tar absorb heat. Tin sheeting in informal settlements is unable to reflect heat and provides little insulation. Indoor temperatures in poorly constructed houses, clinics and schools can be 4°C warmer than outdoors,” the department said.

“Urban environments may lack trees and other vegetation that provide shade and increase cooling through evaporation. High temperatures in outdoor and indoor workplaces impact on workers’ health, through sunburn, dehydration and exhaustion, and can reduce labour productivity.”

Those who work indoors can have a bit of relief as they are away from the sun’s stinging rays. However, those who work outside have to feel its full strength.

So, here are some tips to help you keep safe when working during a heatwave:

Wear lightweight clothing

Light apparel, such as synthetic garments, can assist control body temperature. Breathable fabrics also include cotton, and linen.

They keep the body cool by enabling air to circulate and perspiration to evaporate. These materials can help maintain a pleasant body temperature.


Dehydration is a key cause of heat exhaustion. Even if you don’t realise it, being dehydrated can have a negative impact on your health and work performance.

Water is still the greatest way to cool down during a hot day. Your body needs water for basic activities such as carrying blood to main organs. If you lose fluids via perspiration during this heatwave, drink more water to avoid dehydration.

Know the signs of heat-induced illness

Heatstroke can occur when underlying health concerns have been present for several days. It is critical to recognise these warning symptoms of heat-related diseases and nip them in the bud:

– Heavy perspiration that occurs even when you are not doing anything.

– Blood pressure levels change.

– Confusion, dizziness, and disorientation.

– Rising heart rate and fast breathing.

– Feeling feeble enough to faint or lose consciousness.

Wear sunscreen and sunglasses

During a heatwave, there is higher ultraviolet radiation (UV). This is is a kind of non-ionizing radiation produced by the sun.

They can harm DNA in skin cells, causing genetic abnormalities that lead to skin malignancies such as melanoma, basal cell, and squamous cell carcinoma.

The UV rays may also induce cataracts, retinal degeneration, and eyelid tumours.

So, it is crucial to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen and sunglasses for your eyes.

Rest in shaded areas

Wear a hat to shield your head from the sun, and utilise an umbrella for shade.

If you don’t have these, take regular rests in shady settings like trees or from artificial sources. When taking a break, pour water over your head to assist your body chill off.