According to OSHA, every year, dozens of workers die, and thousands get sick from working in the heat. However, this statistic can change if everyone practices staying safe in the summer. Below, we provide helpful tips for both supervisors and workers!
Tips for Supervisors
Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing a safe working place free of safety hazards for their workers. So, as the supervisor, you should follow a strict procedure to keep your employees safe.
OSHA states that heatstroke and heat exhaustion are the two most dangerous heat-related illnesses. Yet, identifying these illnesses can be difficult for workers, since they can be confused about the symptoms.
Before workers are exposed to the heat, you should provide in-depth training to make sure that they are familiar with ways to minimize safety risks. While it’s your job to ensure that heat illnesses are adequately treated, training will help workers proactively report symptoms.
As the supervisor, you should monitor each project closely to minimize safety risks. In the summer months, this means that you should be on the lookout for any symptoms of heat illness:
- Rising body temperature
- Muscle spasms
- Heavy sweating
Subsequent measures should be taken depending on the intensity of the symptom. In the initial treatments, you should try to lower the body temperature. But, if conditions get worse, you should immediately seek medical help.
3. Provide adequate resources
Heat exhaustion can be prevented if the necessary resources are available to workers. Under OSHA law, supervisors are responsible for providing water, rest, and shade to the workers.
Water: You should make sure that workers have plenty of water before, during, and after their shifts. Advise workers to try to avoid caffeine and drink copious amounts of water at least three days before their shift. In the summer, it is necessary to hydrate even before you feel thirsty.
Rest: The human body can be acclimatized to work in the heat. Yet, it is necessary for workers to take frequent breaks and gradually increase workloads to build heat tolerance.
Shade: Your worksite should have designated shaded areas to cool off. For areas where heavy work is being done or surfaces are extremely hot to touch, you should bring portable, outdoor air-conditioning units or dehumidifiers to put in the shade.
Cooling equipment: Along with water, rest, and shade, you can provide workers with tinted safety glasses to prevent sunburn and industrial cooling vests to maintain consistently cool body temperature.
Scheduling: One important task to keep in mind is to add breaks to your workers’ schedule. Overworking in the heat can lead to quick exhaustion. Also, if possible, remember to schedule projects either late in the day or early morning when the temperatures are relatively cooler.
Tips for construction workers
1. Stay on top of your schedule
Employers are required to schedule breaks, but it is your duty to follow the schedule. Remember not to overwork yourself. You can do this by starting slow and slowly picking up pace. This will help your body adapt to the heat.
2. Wear the right clothes
Remember to choose clothing that is breathable, lightweight, and light in color. Long-sleeved shirts and pants will also protect you from the heat. But, keep in mind that your clothes should not impair your safety.
3. Stay hydrated
The human body requires regular fluid intake to control body temperature. But, every hour you work, you can lose up to 1.5 liters of water in the form of sweat. To replace the body fluids lost through sweat, remember to hydrate regularly. Cold or lukewarm water is your best bet, but you can also drink coconut water or electrolyte drinks. Avoid sugary drinks, alcohol, caffeine, and soda because they further drain the body of fluids.
4. Follow a healthy diet
According to the International Labor Organization, poor nutrition can affect your productivity, morale, safety, and long-term health. Along with keeping yourself hydrated and avoiding caffeine for a few days before work, you should follow a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and protein. If you plan to bring snacks, avoid sugary or processed food items.
5. Apply sunscreen
It is necessary to put sunscreen on all exposed body parts before your shift starts and between breaks. However, according to guidelines given by the American Academy of Dermatology, it is essential to choose the right kind of sunscreen when working in extreme conditions:
- Broad-spectrum: Ensure that your sunscreen is ‘broad-spectrum’. While most types of sunscreen protect you against UVB rays, broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect you against the more dangerous UVA rays.
- SPF 30 or higher: It is essential that your sunscreen is strong enough to protect you against the heat.
- Water-resistant: It is recommended that your sunscreen is water-resistant. Since the heat will make you sweat a lot, water-resistant sunscreen will stay on longer before it needs to be reapplied.
6. Notice and report symptoms
Stay alert and report any warning signs of heat exhaustion to your supervisor. Despite the prevalence and dangers of heat-induced illness, it often goes unreported at the worksite. However, not addressing the safety hazard can be detrimental not only to your long-term health but your co-workers’ health and the company’s productivity.
Although working outside in the summer heat is not the most favorable condition, the human body is able to adapt to extreme situations if you take the right precautions.
As a construction worker, you should remember to schedule work appropriately, wear the right clothes, follow a healthy diet, and regularly apply sunscreen at work. If you are a supervisor, you should know how to monitor your workers’ safety and treat warning signs of heat illness. To become well-versed in construction safety, you can also take online training.