Preparing for Rising Temps & Managing Your Time in the Heat
Only a few short months ago, we discussed the importance of staying warm while outside on jobsites in extremely cold temperatures. It may feel comfortable and pleasant outside right now, but as with true Midwestern weather, the extremely warm temperatures are now just around the corner. As these summer months approach us, we should all recognize – and act to prevent – the harmful effects of working in the heat.
Exposure to heat can result in occupational illnesses like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rashes. Heat can also increase the risk of injuries in workers as a result of sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness. Burns may also occur as a result of accidental contact with hot surfaces. However, most symptoms that workers experience are fever, confusion, loss of coordination, profuse sweating or oppositely dry skin, throbbing headache, muscle pain, weakness and fatigue.
Construction workers are at risk of heat stress due to many environments we work in, particularly industrial settings. The first step of managing that risk is understanding how it can be prevented.
Engineering controls that can reduce workplace heat stress might include:
Increase air velocity with fans or other portable units
Use reflective or heat-absorbing shielding or barriers
Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of the day
Other best practices would be to:
Limit time in the heat or increase recovery time spent in a cool environment
Use special tools (tools intended to minimize manual strain)
Increase the number of workers per task
Implement a buddy system where workers observe each other for signs of heat intolerance
Stay well hydrated; drink adequate amounts of cool water and encourage co-workers to drink frequently as well
Avoid alcohol and drinks with high caffeine or sugar
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing
Superintendents should be aware of:
What procedures to follow when a worker has symptoms consistent with heat-related illness, including emergency response procedures
How to respond to hot weather advisories
How to monitor and encourage adequate fluid intake and rest breaks
Heat stress on the construction site should not be taken lightly. According to the CDC, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by heat-related illnesses every year. Despite this number, many heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Be sure to take the above precautions to help you and your co-workers stay safe this summer.