The summer season is a hectic time in construction. Hot weather not only means more projects, but longer hours and more hectic schedules. Although working outdoors in the summer can be a safer and more positive experience, there are still inherent risks to be wary of. This article discusses some heat-related design exposures in the summer and some safety tips to implement for your workplace.
Heat exposures in the summer
Winter is notorious for giving construction workers greater exposure. But summer brings with it unique exposures to the workplace as well.
The most common exposure in the summer is heat exposure. Labor-intensive work in combination with high working hours can be a dangerous combination for thousands of construction workers across the country. Actually, According to the CDC, between 1992 and 2016, 285 construction workers died of heat-related exposure. This number accounted for more than a third of all heat-related deaths during this time frame.
Non-fatal heat-related diseases (HRIs) are more common. Decreased thinking due to intensified heat exposure can cause dizziness, brain fog, fatigue and sweaty palms; All of this can affect an employee’s job performance. Between 2006 and 2017, a study in Washington examined the largest number of accepted claims in the construction industry from HRIs, which identified a strong correlation with the months of July, August and September during the third quarter.
With global temperatures expected to continue to rise, HRI claims and heat-related deaths are likely to rise in the industry. Outside 1998, 19 of the 20 hottest years ever occurred since 2001. What can construction industry leaders do to protect their workers from heat-related exposure?
Safety measures to manage heat exposure
Although it is unlikely to avoid the hot summer heat, there are effective methods for managing heat exposure.
One of the most important steps you can take to prevent heat-related illness is to wear appropriate clothing for a warm environment. Proper clothing and equipment can adequately protect workers from sun exposure and prevent sweat evaporation. Generally, avoid these clothing choices in hot weather:
- Thick, less permeable clothing
- PPE & clothing that reduces sweat evaporation
- Synthetic fabrics that do not breathe like nylon
On the contrary, synthetic sportswear has become more popular among construction workers. It is recommended as a breathable garment due to its composition of more breathable fabrics such as cotton and polyester.
Also, make sure you have proper sun protection. This includes both plenty of sunscreen and hats when it is safe to protect against sunscreen.
The employer’s recommendations for managing heat exposure
Similarly, employers should take measures to deal with heat-related exposures. Here are some important preventative tactics you can implement in your summer job:
- Encourage hydration: Adequate fluid intake is crucial in hot weather. Some tips to implement:
- Provide easily accessible toilets so that workers do not avoid hydration.
- Advise employees to drink at least 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes.
- Encourage moisturizing with sports drinks to replenish electrolytes.
- Limit heat exposure: Proper rest provides maximum effect and reduced risk of heat-related illness:
- Ensure frequent rest periods for hydration and cooling.
- Schedule more strenuous work for colder parts of the day / week.
- Change work / rest schedules depending on the job.
- Reduce heat load: Managing workload can reduce body stress and divide work in hot weather better:
- Implement load aid and mechanized equipment to reduce labor.
- Increase crew sizes to reduce individual workload.
- Reduce working hours and limit overtime hours for less conditioned workers.
- Improve heat tolerance: Getting used to heat can help manage different skills and levels of endurance:
- Gradually increase the time in warm environments over a period of 1 to 2 weeks.
- New workers should spend limited time in heat compared to conditioned workers.
- Monitor employees carefully until they are fully accustomed to the heat.
Implementing this tactic can not only prevent the risk of heat-related illnesses in the workplace but can also save lives. Creating a heat warning program can also be a useful tactic for notifying management and regulators of appropriate strategies and tactics for construction in hot weather.
Above all, it is important to understand the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and what to do in the event of an emergency. For a quick guide on dealing with acute heat-related diseases and heat stroke, consult this OSHA Express Card for an appropriate action plan.
For more help protecting your workplace and your employees this summer, Consult a BNC Building Insurance Agent today.