After living up north for a few years, I know how hot it can get, and the benefits of having the right clothing. Probably the first thing worth saying is that sunburn in a hot climate makes you feel even hotter, so it is something definitely worth avoiding. The other thing is that humans are amazing, and while I am not a fan of the heat, even I was able to acclimatise to the hot weather after a few weeks. Things that helped me do this was keeping really well hydrated, and acknowledging that I was in an acclimatising process so during this stage I needed to take lots of breaks either in the shade or air-conditioning. Not that everyone took this approach, and I saw a few guys topple or get close because they wouldn’t accept that they needed to take it easy the first few weeks.
The other thing that helps to cope with the heat is the right clothing, and you might be surprised to know that the right long sleeved shirt is much more effective in keeping you cool than the wrong short sleeved shirt. One reason is because long sleeved shirts stop you from getting sunburnt, and sunburn actually makes your body feel hot and can prevent it from effectively cooling you down. The other reason is that the right shirt can actually stop the sun beating down on your skin, and effectively work as a form of shade, and most of us realise that working in the shade is much cooler than working in the full sun.
But to get the right shirt you might want to look for these things: 100% cotton, because this natural fibre breathes, and must have a number of vents, in the right places, which are also 100% cotton, because these allow the air to circulate. The weight of the fabric also plays a big part because a heavy fabric, even 100% cotton, will prevent the cool air from circulating, so it is important to get a shirt with a fabric weight no higher than 125gsm. Most importantly, make sure the shirt has a label stating it is UPF50+, as this provides the maximum level of sun protection. And buy lighter colours because darker colours tend to absorb the heat a little more, and provided the shirt is UPF50+ choosing a darker colour will not make it a better option. A loose fitting shirt can also allow air to circulate around your body, but make sure it is not so loose that it will catch or become a safety hazard. This is something you need to assess based on the job you are doing.
Ideally you would also wear long pants, but some people really can’t stand these in the heat, so if you do choose to wear shorts, make sure they come below the knee, and that you apply sunscreen to any bare skin. Also ensure these are 100% cotton, made from lightweight fabric and are UPF50+.
And I cannot emphasise enough the importance of wearing a hat or brim on your hardhat. With the sun above us, the head is a natural UV radiation target, and with no protection you are really opening yourself up to skin cancer. But beside from that, a good 100% cotton broad-brimmed or bucket hat, particularly with ventilation, can really help to keep your entire body cool. And we’re not the first to realise this. Just look at the Bedouin people of the desert who always have their heads covered. They have known for hundreds of years the benefits of keeping your head covered when in the sun, long before people even knew what skin cancer was.
My last point, and it is an important one, is find a sunscreen that works for you in the heat. Personally I hate to use traditional sunscreens in hot weather because they make me feel clammy and even hotter, which is why I prefer the dry touch sunscreens. These go on like normal sunscreen but then dry and you don’t even know you are wearing them. It is of course personal preference, and some people are happy with traditional sunscreens, but when I found that was all that was offered on sites, I started to bring my own dry touch stuff and I found I was more comfortable and happier to use it.
I know this one was a long one, but I think it is important to let you guys know that heat is not a barrier to using sun protection, and you could actually be more comfortable working outdoors in the right gear than what you are using at the moment, so why not give it a go?