How To Stay Safe Working In The Heat

Top Tips For Staying Cool Working In The Heat

Hot weather has hit most parts of the country and it’s going to get worse as summer wears on. Working on a construction site during the heat of the summer, with asphalt that can reach temperatures of up to 300°F and higher, that can result in serious illness or even death. Workers exposed to extreme heat may experience symptoms of heat-related illnesses (HRI), such as heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat stroke, and other symptoms. In the worst of cases, even death can occur.

This is not news. If you’ve been doing this job long, you know how harsh hot days can be. According to the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), heat-related illness is also linked to injuries from falls, equipment operation accidents, and other on-the-job incidents. Such incidents can happen when someone with heat stress becomes dizzy, fatigued, confused, or disoriented.

Since heat can lead to other issues and potential incidents, and it can’t be avoided when a job hinges on strict deadlines, it is important that all of the individuals working in the heat take care of themselves to avoid heat illness issues.

Here are just some of the lessons that we’ve had to learn the hard way: 

  1. Hydrate: Drink plenty of proper fluids the night before a workday and continue to drink fluids (i.e., water or sports drinks with electrolytes) throughout the day. One should drink an additional 10% on top of the daily recommended fluid intake.
  2. Take Care of Yourself: Eating a healthy meal and getting a good night’s rest are two good ways for your body to be prepared for the taxing work ahead of it. Take all necessary precautions to make sure that you don’t put your body under any additional stress that it already has to.
  3. Dress Appropriately: Engineered fabric athletic and recreational garments can reduce the heat load on the body. They offer trans-evaporative cooling, UV, and insect protection. Also, make sure to cover your head. A wide-brim hard hat will protect your face from the sun. Add a nape protector or wrap-around sun visor to maximize protection. Always use sunblock on any exposed skin. Having a cooling towel handy also makes cooling yourself down while on the job a breeze.
  4. Know the Warning Signs: Heat-related illnesses range in severity and are not something you should take lightly. The order of seriousness is:

                     a) Heat cramps – Usually stem from poor hydration; take it easy, drink water, put your feet up. these usually occur in your arms, calves, and legs. If this happens, immediately drink something with a lot of electrolytes.

                          b) Heat exhaustion – Knock off for the day, go someplace cool, rehydrate, rest.

                          c) Heatstroke – Call 911 immediately.

5. Don’t Over Do It: In this heat, it’s important to try and pace yourself and the crew, avoid prolonged strenuous exertion, and take frequent breaks.

Employers should be sure workers are trained about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention and always monitor workers for signs of illness. 

If at all possible, try to schedule work in the early morning or at night when temperatures aren’t as bad. We know you have deadlines, but the health and safety of your crew is paramount to that. Stay safe out there!

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