Construction is a job that requires extensive manual labor to be performed, regardless of weather conditions. In some cases, construction workers have to battle extreme conditions just to get the job done. This can, however, become difficult when working construction in the heat.
After all, construction is, by nature, a labor-intensive job that drains the body and tests its endurance. With that said, the heat adds even more difficulty to an already exhausting job, making it essential for workers to keep their health and safety top of mind.
We’ve created a safety guide to help individuals working construction in the heat stay safe without sacrificing the quality of their work.
1. Keep Yourself Hydrated
According to a recent study, roughly 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This numbers seems incredibly high until you look at the high sodium diets, number of caffeinated beverages consumed, and the intake of alcoholic beverages that the typical American consumed.
Dehydration is known to cause dizziness, headaches, muscle cramps, light headedness, and fainting. For construction workers, in order to perform at a high level, it’s important to constantly stay hydrated. This is especially true when working construction in the heat, when dehydration becomes more likely.
Even without the heat, construction workers are constantly sweating, losing a lot of water form their bodies. Add in the effects of heat creates a dangerous scenario. . Dehydration can be extremely harmful to the body. Therefore, to operate efficiently in the construction business, it’s crucial to make sure you’re constantly drinking water before, during, and after your shifts.
It’s recommended by industry professionals for men to drink roughly 13 cups of water per day when working construction in the heat. This number drops to 9 cups for women. To keep up with water consumption, make sure to keep a water bottle handy at all times, refilling once the bottle is finished.
While this may lead to more bathroom breaks, your body will thank you in the long run. By keeping your body hydrating, you’re giving your body the resources it needs to operate at a high level during the heat. The more you sweat, the more liquid you should be putting back into your body.
2. Take Regular Breaks
A body can only take so much, especially when performing labor-intensive tasks. Accidents and injuries are more likely to occur when our bodies are depleted of energy. When the sun is beating down, causing temperatures to rise, it’s important to make sure you’re giving your body time during your shift to rest and compose itself.
Too often, construction workers ignore their internal warning signs and ‘man up,’ pushing themselves further over the edge to avoid appearing weak. However, it’s important when working construction in the heat to be aware of your body’s limitations. While taking constant breaks may put you and your team behind schedule, it will significantly decrease the risk of injury.
During breaks, energize yourself with food and drinks so that you have enough strength to get back to work and perform normally. In case of dizziness or light-headedness, take up sports drinks. Their formula includes many nutrients and salts that mineral water does not provide.
3. Avoid Chilled Drinks
Drinking water is the key to staying hydrated and healthy while working in the heat. However, if you can, try and avoid drinking iced or chilled drinks. Not only are room temperature drinks easier to drink, but they are actually better for digestion and performance.
Believe it or not, but chilled drinks can cause the blood vessels in the stomach to shrink, which in turn can reduce our body’s fluid absorption rate. In the same article, Everyday Health also states that drinking excess amounts of cold liquids can also lead to diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.
When working in the heat and sticking to the minimum recommended servings of water, it’s best to stick with filtered, room temperature water as opposed to water from a cooler. It may be less refreshing, but the health benefits for construction workers definitely makes up for it.
4. Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Intake
Caffeine increases water loss in the body, which can be extremely detrimental to your health, especially when working construction in the heat. Not only do caffeinated drinks dehydrate your body by making you sweat more, but they also carry a diuretic effect, causing you to urinate more often.
Here’s a brief list of caffeinated drinks you should try and stay away from before and during your shift:
- Energy Drinks
There’s a likelihood, especially if you’re working early mornings, that these drinks are vital to you feeling awake throughout your shift. If this is the case, try to limit the amount of caffeine you ingest. Maybe try decaf coffee and try and trick your body into waking up, or try other methods of feeling awake in the morning.
Similarly, alcoholic beverages have the same diuretic effect on the body as caffeine. By reducing your body’s water content, alcohol can cause severe dehydration. Therefore, if you can, avoid consuming it at least 24 hours before your shift, since it can be hard to entirely recover from the effects. In case of alcohol consumption, make sure to flush out the toxins from your system by drinking as much water as possible.
5. Choose Appropriate Attire
If it’s hot outside, even the color of your clothes can make a difference in the heat’s intensity. Choose garments made with airy, light fabrics; cotton, for instance, can be easy on the body. Additionally, select light-colored clothes because darker colors absorb and trap heat, resulting in increased body temperature.
You can also opt for cooling vests when working in the sun. These vests are increasingly popular among construction and other industrial workers for their ability to help regulate the core temperature of the body.
You can take additional measures if the conditions are unusually severe. This includes the efficient planning of work. For example, schedule the more laborious tasks for the cooler parts of the day or plan a rotation policy in collaboration with co-workers so the burden of heat doesn’t fall on one person.
These are just a few tips to help you beat the heat the next time you are working construction in the sun. As a OSHA-Approved training school, we at OSHACampus make sure to provide America’s construction workers with the tools they need to get the job done. Check out our extensive construction course catalog for more information.