Longer days and favorable weather conditions make summer the ideal season for many industrial and commercial construction projects. But the sun and warmer temperatures that allow for construction to move forward can pose hazards to the men and women working on the construction site.
On average, extreme heat is the deadliest type of weather in the U.S., killing 130 people each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Thousands more become ill due to working in the heat.
In 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a program to lessen the incidence of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The “Heat Illness Prevention Campaign” sought to educate employers and their construction workers on the hazards of working in the extreme heat.
The program is focused around a simple formula: water, rest, shade, repeat. Ideally, each of these components should be readily available to each worker throughout his/her shift. Management and co-workers should become accustomed to monitoring not only themselves but those in their area for signs of heat exhaustion. Everyone on the job site must know and be able to recognize the signs of this heat-related condition.
- Cold, pale, clammy skin
- Fast, weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, fainting, or weakness
- Muscle cramps
Unfortunately, heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heatstroke, a much more serious condition, featuring symptoms such as—
- A temperature of 103˚ F or higher
- Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
- Fast, strong pulse
- Loss of consciousness
Preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke requires forward-thinking on the part of management, to provide—
- Adjusted work schedules, when possible, to avoid the hottest part of the day
- Areas of shade for breaks and meals
- An adequate supply of water and electrolyte-replacing beverages to ward off dehydration
But please note this word of caution about consuming too much water. What many folks fail to note is that the liquid leaving the body in the form of sweat is not merely water. Excessive sweating robs the body of crucial electrolytes, including sodium and potassium, that must be replaced.
Also, consuming too much plain water too fast can lead to a condition known as hyponatremia or “water intoxication.” This dangerous, and sometimes fatal, condition occurs when the sodium levels in a person’s blood drop very quickly.
Strategies experts recommend for avoiding dehydration include—
- Being well-hydrated before beginning work
- Drinking five to seven ounces of cool (50˚ to 59˚ F) water every 15-20 minutes. Alternate with electrolyte-replacing beverages throughout the day, avoiding overly sweet or alcoholic drinks.
- Snacking on fresh fruits such as berries, watermelon, peaches, and nectarines as they are rich in water
Those working in the summer heat should take advantage of all forms of protective gear such as sunglasses, sunscreen, and hats/clothing that ward off harmful UV rays.
- Choose comfortable eyewear that protects against both UVB and UVA rays, offering 99-100% UV protection.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat or outfit your hard hat with accessories to protect your face, ears, and neck from the sun.
- Cover exposed skin with a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen offering an SPF factor of at least 30 that provides protection from both UVB and UVA radiation. Reapply throughout the day.
Gillmann Services, Inc. has and always will stand for safety without compromise. To ensure proper safety practices are developed and adopted for and by everyone, we provide a variety of training opportunities through our on-staff instructors. Give our team a call today to see what Gillmann can do for you!