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My job is outside and laborious; park ranger/gardener. Where I live temperatures sit around 35-40 degrees Celsius (95-104 Fahrenheit) and there’s no air conditioned staff rooms for breaks or water coolers.

I started the day at 5am and went without water until 9am because I was dragged away without getting the chance to unpack since they were understaffed and needed help desperately. When I finally had water I began to feel nauseous but took a Degas tablet and brushed it off. Then in the middle of raking and cleaning the ponds, I started feeling really hot and dizzy.

I previously rarely went outside due to school and freelance writing, but I didn’t expect to fall so easily to the heat and I feel incredibly embarrassed about it, like I’m weak.

I tried to work through it, I was dizzy, nauseous and a had a migraine but after 30 minutes of heat stroke I couldn’t pull through without medical intervention.

My supervisor was incredibly understanding and was the first to suggest I go home and cool down, even apologising for pushing me too hard even though I didn’t think so.

However looking back, I feel pathetic for having been affected by that when everyone else was breezing through it.

How can I proceed from here? Is there anything I should do to make up for this?

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  • 86
    Take heat stroke symptoms seriously. Do not try and work through them, as doing so can lead to death. And I'm not exaggerating about it. See here. Staying hydrated, wearing appropriate clothing, including hats is vitally important to do. And do not compare yourself to your other colleagues.
    – Peter M
    Apr 20, 2022 at 3:24
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    Your manager was right to apologize to you. Would you expect anyone else to go from spending most of their time indoors to being able to work for four straight hours in that kind of heat with no water or break?
    – BSMP
    Apr 20, 2022 at 7:46
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    @gidds There are many many workplaces that don't have staff rooms and water coolers - not everyone works in an office. Apr 20, 2022 at 15:18
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    If you are in the US working under supervision OSHA requires that you have access to free, potable water at all times. Your boss may be nice, but he may also be sweating.
    – Dúthomhas
    Apr 20, 2022 at 16:00
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    You went home, the alternative was death. You feel embarrassed for not taking the high road and dying?
    – MonkeyZeus
    Apr 20, 2022 at 18:29

7 Answers 7

57

These things happen.

It's important to remember that people's first days can be stressful, and that mental stress can actually have a physical manifestation.

Your body also takes time to adapt to a new situation. Even people that may run for 30 minutes a day might struggle to work for 4 hours in heat. As Kilisi says in his answer, even people who you would consider strong and healthy, struggle in physical situations that are unusual for them.

No doubt many of your colleagues have had off days, but possibly handled it better due to experience. Just your off-day was your first day, where you perhaps lacked the experience to understand what your body needed. People that do physical work often have a pretty good understanding when they are pushing themselves too much. You just need experience to know where that point is.

Sounds like you have a great supervisor, so you should feel excited to go back to work.

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  • 6
    What question are you answering? Apr 21, 2022 at 0:32
  • 1
    @LamarLatrell: The one where the OP felt embarrassed about going back to work. It's probably off-topic for this site; I have voted to close accordingly. Apr 21, 2022 at 12:51
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Just go to work better prepared. Or if you feel you're not up to the work then find another job.

No point worrying about feeling embarrassed, there is nothing you can do about it. It IS embarrassing, but it's not abnormal. And it will be soon forgotten if you handle your work properly. The first week in a new environment is usually the hardest and now you know what to prepare against.

As a forestry worker we often had new guys come in, very fit gym going rugby player types some of them. Confident they'll make a bunch of $$ and probably show the farm boys up. It was a standing joke about how long they'd last, which was usually half a day of real effort and they're usually gone never to return within a week.

I'm sure they felt embarrassed, but it wasn't a big deal to us. Very few people handle the job long term. I didn't even bother learning their names until they'd been around a couple of weeks or more. At the start of a season 4 or 5 vanloads of chaps would be brought into the forest. The second day half the guys wouldn't show. Within a week we'd just have a couple of new chaps. So it's not just you that has issues.

Having said that don't be too embarrassed, your boss is at fault as well. As a foreman the first few days of a new worker were a primary concern for me in terms of their health and safety. If I saw people had come unprepared (I knew what to look for) I'd bring them water or send them to get some. And I'd have noticed if someone was in trouble.

In future don't be shy to stop what you're doing and go find a drink or some shade. The pond will still be there when you return. Just don't go to sleep under a bush.

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  • Why not sleep under a bush? Is it a health risk? Apr 20, 2022 at 15:26
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    It think, @AzorAhai-him-, it's because you might not be found there should "sleep" turn into passing out from heat stroke.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 20, 2022 at 16:07
  • @AzorAhai-him- What FreeMan said. Also, your 15 break can turn into a couple of hours of sleep, which is when you should be working. Apr 20, 2022 at 16:20
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    The last sentence is my favorite as it apparently allows lots of personalized readings. Mine is that staying hydrated is part of doing the job responsibly. Whereas getting out of sight and/or getting a nap during paid time is what will make you look a slacker, heat or no heat. Don't cross that line, work the day at your own performance level and you'll be fine. Apr 20, 2022 at 22:00
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Getting heat stroke is nothing to be embarrassed about, many overlook it and it leads to their death. There is not enough education about heat stroke in the workplace, unfortunately.

Don’t compare yourself to your colleagues, they have probably been adapted to the environment for a while and should be understanding like your manager.

“Don’t put your work above your health” is advice I was given about schoolwork, but I think it applies here too :)

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Don't be embarrassed; folks working grueling outdoor jobs in hot climates know heatstroke is deadly serious.

They (presumably) also know that it takes some time to acclimate to working in high heat and that you likely won't be working at 100% for at least a week or so. Your supervisor is probably upset with themselves for not noticing sooner that you were suffering to the extent you were; and if anything the determination/resolve you showed working to your absolute limit probably reflects well on you.

So don't let embarrassment be what stops you from going back. Just come in tomorrow armed with plenty of water, electrolytes, a sun hat, and some basic knowledge about heat-exhaustion and heatstroke. Tell your boss "Sorry for trying to over-do it yesterday; I never had heatstroke before and really underestimated how it hits you. I'm a little more prepared now, and will be more diligent about not overworking myself so that I can put in a full day today." and you should be golden.

(And actually do be more diligent about your water-breaks and cooling off; heatstroke is one of those things where your body will actually lower it's tolerance if you keep trying to "push through" and ignore it. Treat yourself with "kid gloves" for the next few days while you better learn your body's heat tolerances and how much you can exert yourself without getting any dizzyness.)


Source: Worked a few summers in a small hot-tar roofing crew during summer-breaks from college.

5

Other answers are great. I just want to add some few minor notes.

In the US, there have been many tragic cases related to heatstrokes where high school football players either were either sent to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit or emergency rooms in the hospitals) or even pass away. These are seemingly strong and healthy football players.

So, people should take all possible measures to prevent heatstrokes.

A heatstroke can happen very quickly, and may cause more serious damages than people expect.

If necessary, it might be a good idea for you to look into another job or another position where you will not be in a situation where another potential heatstroke may happen again.

3

I'm sorry this happened to you, and I hope you feel better now.

One way to deal with feeling embarrassed is to imagine that what happened to you, happened to someone else, and then ask yourself, how do you see that person.

So, if someone else was new in a job where you have to work under high temperatures, had no water for 4 hours, was not used to this kind of work and then had a heat stroke, how would you think of that person? From what you can see here, most people don't think less of you, since having a heat stroke is a normal consequence for the conditions you went through.

Also from what you say, you supervisor seems like a reasonable person who has your health at heart but who happened to have made a mistake.

You can also rethink this as a learning lesson on why it is important to listen to your body. At the end we all are humans and everyone has its limits.

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Don't be put off by this; I suspect its almost a rite of passage or the equivalent of a hazing ritual to see how each new person handles the heat, and it'll happen again next-time new people start.
Yes, it hit you hard, but now you're armed with better knowledge of the conditions and can come more-prepared.

You should go back the next day more-prepared.

  • Wear a full-brimmed sunhat (not a cap)

  • Take a plastic water bottle that you can have on you at all times, like a belt holster. Have a second bottle as backup - both should be 600mL to 1L in capacity.

  • Drink from that water bottle, frequently. Several times an hour at least, aim to empty the bottles just about Lunchtime when you can refill.
    Personally I like a small squirt of lime in my water, others prefer lemon, sports drink/electrolite powders. Sugared drinks generally don't help with hydration so avoid juices and soft drinks. Cold/chilled is nice but unless you carry a thermos/vaccuum flask, it soon warms up anyway.

  • Apply sunblock to exposed skin and rub it in. You may need to reapply at lunch if you sweat it out.

  • Wear white or light coloured clothing that is fairly loose-fitting and made of thin cloth. Do not have it tucked in (presuming you're not working around machinery) Consider where the sun hits you most, and perhaps try a long-sleeved shirt instead of a tee shirt.

  • Consider wearing some functional sunglasses too - not so much for the heat but its likely bright as well, and reduce eyestrain.

  • Get out of the sunlight whenever the opportunity presents itself. Standing in any form of available shade for a moment will help a lot.

  • If you have facial hair, consider trimming it to improve air flow.


I bet you weren't peeing a lot either - because all your body fluids were being sweated out through the skin and lost to evaporation. Not needing to piss means you're low on liquids, so chug half a bottle immediately. That's a warning sign, don't ignore it.

As for the workplace - you've learned, demonstrate that you can adjust, and perhaps if you see the signs of someone else suffering in the future you're pre-warned and can help them avoid the unpleasant crash. This demonstrates your empathy and compassion, along with your observation skills and future leadership potential.

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  • 1
    IMHO you have been downvoted for suggesting that trying to kill a new employee is merely a hazing ritual.
    – Peter M
    Apr 21, 2022 at 12:12
  • @PeterM I think you're overstating the intent there. "failing to identify/assist" isn't "trying to kill"
    – Criggie
    Apr 21, 2022 at 20:12
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    If you are choosing to put someone through something that can easily lead to their death, and the subject is not aware of the implications of what is happening, then that goes far beyond "failing to identify/assist", and would potentially rise to the level of manslaughter in the US. And given that it is pre-meditated it could also rise to the level of criminally negligent homicide.
    – Peter M
    Apr 21, 2022 at 22:16
  • @PeterM sounds like you have the makings of a great answer. If the question were still open I'd suggest you add that as your own answer.
    – Criggie
    Apr 22, 2022 at 2:46

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