More on-the-job construction injuries occur in summer than in any other season. August is a particularly bad month for workplace injuries in construction. You can reduce your chances of you or your team suffering an injury while on the job site by following a few key construction summer safety tips.
Summertime Heat Hazards
Fatigue is more than feeling a little tired or weak. True fatigue inhibits a person’s ability to move at a normal pace, think clearly, or even form words. A person experiencing fatigue will struggle to lift equipment, perform tasks, or even stand up.
Heat exhaustion is caused by overheating to the point where your body is no longer able to cool itself down. It can be a precursor to heat stroke and should be taken seriously. Common symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Cool skin (even in very hot temperatures)
- Heavy sweating
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps.
If your workers display these signs, get them off site to a shaded, cool area and hydrate them. If the symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
Heat stroke is a far more serious form of heat exhaustion and almost always requires medical attention. Rather than your body struggling to cool itself, heat stroke entirely shuts down your body’s temperature regulation mechanisms. All heat exhaustion symptoms apply, but more severe symptoms may develop such as:
- Red skin
- A core temperature of at least 104 degrees Fahrenheit
If a team member displays these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
Mild or moderate dehydration can occur early in the workday during extreme heat. If left untreated, severe dehydration can occur, which may require a trip to the emergency room to remedy. Signs of mild-to-moderate dehydration include:
- Dry mouth
- Dark urine
- Muscle cramps
If it progresses to severe dehydration, symptoms escalate to include:
- Very dry skin
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing
- Sunken eyes
Insist that your workers stay hydrated and provide them the means to do so in order to avoid this issue on the job site.
Summer Safety on the Construction Site for Workers
To combat the heat on the construction site, follow these best practices.
Avoid long periods of work during the hottest part of the day
The hottest part of the day is not high noon as many believe. It is actually between 3 and 4 in the afternoon. Either ensure that you have a long break in this hour, or take several short breaks in the afternoon to avoid heat-related illnesses.
Start your day with water and continue to take sips regularly throughout the day. This way, you’ll ensure your body has enough water. This is a better method than drinking a large amount of water all at once and then forgetting about it for the rest of the day. You’ll likely take in more water and therefore stay more hydrated if you take it in small sips throughout your work day.
Hydration also includes electrolytes, so bring something like Propel, Gatorade, or even Pedialyte on very hot days when your body is likely to shed sodium and other important hydrating elements.
Big, heavy meals may not sound appealing in severe heat, but you do need to eat something substantial. Break up your meals into several smaller, protein-rich snacks to stay energized and fueled for your workday.
While it won’t protect you from heat exhaustion or stroke, sunscreen will protect your skin from the unrelenting sun. Reapply at least once during the day to make sure you stay protected.
Be aware of signs of heat exhaustion
You are your own best advocate. If you feel signs of heat-related illness, stop working and rest. Alert your boss and take a seat in the shade. Do not continue to work as that will only make your situation worse.
Take rest in the shade
Even if you’re feeling great, find shade in which to rest whenever possible. Any amount of time you can be out of direct sunlight helps your body stay cool.
Summer Safety on the Construction Site for Leadership
If you’re a manager, your summer safety on the construction site should focus on your workers. To help your workers stay safe and healthy on the construction job site during the hot summer days, provide the following resources and services.
Some workers may not be aware of the importance of heat-related summertime safety on the construction site. Give them educational resources and hold team meetings to ensure that all parties are equipped with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe in the heat.
Provide weather-appropriate PPE to workers
Scorching temperatures require breathable, ventilated attire. From masks to vests to hardhats, choose gear for your team that helps to keep them cool rather than heats them up in the summertime.
Provide shaded areas
Rest isn’t rest when it’s in the baking sun. If there’s no natural shade on the job site, put up tents to provide respite from the sun’s rays.
Give regular breaks
You may need to provide more break opportunities in the heat than in the winter months. Build a schedule that cycles your workers in and out of the job more rapidly than you normally would. This way, no one is working so long that they’re likely to develop heat exhaustion or worse.
Bottled water or water jugs and cups will go a long way to support the health of your team. Supply more than you think you’ll need so you never run out. Check in with your workers about their hydration and encourage them to continue drinking water throughout the day.
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