By Kevan Goff-Parker
/ Published July 27, 2018
While the hot and steamy days of summer can lull Oklahomans into staying too long in the pool, Tinker Air Force Base leadership is on alert when it comes to Airmen being serious about summertime safety.
Soaking up sun safety
Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Occupational Safety Manager Steve Serrette said it is no laughing matter when Airmen or their families linger too long in the sun’s powerful ultraviolet rays because direct sun exposure can damage skin in as little as 15 minutes.
“I recommend Team Tinker and their families seek solid shade providers like an umbrella, a leafy tree or other shelter before overdoing it in the sun and possibly risking skin cancer,” Serrette said. “Even if you’re in the shade, your overall best bet is to protect your skin with sunscreen and wear protective clothing.”
He said when possible, those expecting to be exposed to the sun should wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts made of tightly woven fabric.
“Most people don’t realize that darker colors may offer more UV protection than lighter ones,” Serrette said. “Another option is to wear certified UV protection clothing.”
He recommends that people wear at least a T-shirt or a beach cover-up as well as sunscreen and a hat with a wide brim.
“Don’t wear a straw hat because that can let sunlight through,” Serrette said. “Wearing a dark canvas hat works best to protect the head. A baseball cap leaves your ears and back of the neck exposed, so you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen on those areas with at least a sun protection factor of 15, or simply stay in the shade.”
He said many people who live close to the equator suffer from cataracts as they age due to a lack of sun protection for their eyes, so using sunglasses that block UVA and ultraviolet B rays is recommended.
“The majority of sunglasses in the U.S. meet this standard and wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side,” Serrette said. “Cloudy and cool days can still cause sunburn, everyone should use a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 on all parts of their body exposed to sunlight, and don’t forget to reapply as needed.”
He also recommends lip balms that use some of the same active ingredients as sunscreens.
Splish-splashing with water safety
Serrette said local media in Oklahoma recently reported that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to increase safety patrols at lakes statewide in response to the 11 recreational drownings since May.
“I always recommend personal-risk assessment prior to getting into a pool or lake,” he said. “Certain behaviors and water don’t mix and can be hazardous when combined.”
- Don’t swim or get into water if you:
- Drink alcoholic beverages (before and during)
- Become fatigued
- Don’t know the depth of the water
- Anticipate bad weather conditions
- Are alone
“Drinking alcohol could cause you to overestimate your ability in the water,” Serrette said. “Make sure you’re well rested because a lack of rest may not allow you to operate at your full potential and swimming alone is dangerous. Everyone should always swim with a buddy or at least a lifeguard present.
“The weather is unpredictable in Oklahoma and possible thunderstorms can bring high winds and sometimes hail during the summer, so get out of the water if the weather looks bad. Walk into the water first before diving because diving headfirst might cause you to hit the bottom of the pool or lake.”
He said small children and pets can accidentally drown in backyard swimming pools when left unattended.
“Always keep fenced-in pools locked securely when not in use,” Serrette said. “Pets and small children need to be kept away from unenclosed and unoccupied pools.”
Never leave children or pets in a hot vehicle
Serrette said an Oklahoman was recently charged with animal cruelty because the person left their dog alone in a hot car and the dog died.
“Never leave a child alone in a car, not even for a few minutes,” he said. “Children can die of heat stroke when left in a hot car and it happens way too often.”
The National Safety Council released a recent report stating that 742 children in the U.S. died of heatstroke because they were left in hot vehicles between 1998 and 2017 – 42 children died in 2017.
Serrette said 55 percent of parents or other caregivers don’t realize they had left a child behind. It is unknown how many pets die each year because they were left in a hot vehicle.
“Some parents or caretakers think they can leave a child or a pet in a vehicle while they run a quick errand,” he said. “Sadly, a delay of just a few minutes can lead to a terrible tragedy. A young child’s core body temperature heats up three to five times more quickly than an adult and can cause permanent injury or death.”
Pets can also die within minutes in a parked vehicle from heatstroke even if a window is open a few inches.
“Shade doesn’t guarantee that your pet is safe because there is a greenhouse effect where the sun may move enough to become sunny,” he said. “Pets left in vehicles are also at risk of being stolen or harassed.”
For more information, contact Serrette at 739-3263.