Depending on your location and many other factors, staying cool in the summer months when you work outside can be difficult. There are important things to be aware of when spending most of the day outdoors in harsh conditions that aren’t always safe, such as the symptoms of heat exhaustion. It’s good to keep these tips and suggestions in the back of your mind if you or someone close to you works in construction or other related jobs. Construction heat safety is very important and is not something to take lightly, as it can lead to serious illnesses and possibly life-threatening conditions. After all, if construction workers are aware of the signs and symptoms, and have the products they need to stay protected, more of their great work can get done safely during those hot summer days.
Importance of Staying Cool as a Construction Worker
To prevent heat illness while at work, there are many things you can do to stay safe from the sun’s rays. According to the United Stated Department of Labor, workers need special training on how to recognize heat and if it’s dangerous for them. They should also understand first aid and know what to do when the heat is becoming too much for someone. Implementing practices such as hydration, frequent breaks, and finding shade and air conditioning are great things to remember when you know you will be working in the sun all day. Having enough electrolytes and water is also crucial when you are working in the heat for hours each day and can prevent you from passing out or experiencing heat-related illnesses.
Drinking fluids throughout the day and eating foods that will provide hydration such as fruits and vegetables are also key in helping you stay alert and energized, and free of symptoms of heat exhaustion. Accidents can happen more frequently on job sites during the summer months due to the extreme heat, so eating proper nutrition and giving your body plenty of water can help reduce these accidents and injuries. As a result, workers will be more conscious of what they are doing since heat illnesses tend to make people feel foggy and unaware of their surroundings.
How to Prepare and be Aware of the Heat
Promoting construction heat safety to employees during the summer months and giving them information regarding job sites is also important. Construction managers or the person in charge should communicate to the workers where they can go during the day for shade breaks, and where access to water would be on all jobsites. Buying bulk water bottles for construction workers is a great way for companies to show appreciation to their employees while also preventing heat stroke and other sun-related issues.
Being up to date on the weather for your area is also a great indication of what to expect while at work. Watching the weather forecast on television or using an app on your smartphone are resourceful ways to track the upcoming weather for the day and to know what temperatures in your area will look like during the times you will be outside. Another tip is to try and avoid being outside when the sun is at its highest point, which is around noon. For a possible solution, perhaps starting the workday an hour earlier during the summer months to avoid the heat would be a way to reduce heat-related illnesses among workers. This will also allow employees to enjoy a bit more of the afternoon with their families and children.
After watching the weather, it’s important to be prepared for what’s to come in order to stay cool, so remember to pack your sunscreen, maybe an extra shirt, and lots of water to stay hydrated throughout the day. Staying cool in construction doesn’t have to be difficult, and there are so many products nowadays to help your employees find relief and to stay safe during a hot summer day on the job site. Some of those products might include:
- Cooling vests: A cooling vest is a great way to help employees stay cool while working outside. These lightweight rechargeable cooling vests are helpful for beating the heat.
- Bandanas and sweatbands: Bandanas and sweatbands don’t just absorb your sweat from your head and neck, but they can prevent sweat from getting into your eyes and causing vision problems. If you can’t see properly while working, there is a greater chance of injury.
- Water jugs and coolers: Having coolers to keep water bottles cold for workers is a great way for you to provide relief to them on a hot day at the job. Just like an office that has a breakroom for food and drinks, construction workers can have a make-shift breakroom in the back of a van supplied with cold drinks.
- Tents and canopies: Providing shade when there isn’t natural shade is important in reducing the risk of heat stroke and other heat related illnesses. Tents and canopies are easy to set up and take down, giving your employees much needed shade and a break from the sun.
Safety equipment and supplies are essential in making sure that your employees stay healthy and free of injuries, not just during the summer, but all year round. If summer is coming up and you are looking for ways on how to beat the heat working construction, these products and more can help you stay cool while working outside. Check out W.B. Mason for more safety equipment and products to keep your team going through the summer.
The Signs of Construction Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is common when working outside in a hot climate, especially during the summer months. The main cause of heat-related illnesses is when your body fails to regulate temperature and cool down when it gets too overheated. At a regulated temperature, the body should be 98.6°F, and anything above that means it is overeating and is a cause for concern. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to watch out for, and some treatments to do when experiencing this harsh condition:
- Dizziness when standing
- Profusely sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid pulse
- High heart rate
What to do if these develop:
- Stop the activity or work you are doing and try to rest to bring down your heart rate.
- Drink fluids with electrolytes to bring back sodium to regulate your body.
- Move to the shade or into air conditioning.
- See a doctor or go to the Emergency Room if your body temperature does not go down.
Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that lots of people suffer from, especially if they work outside in the heat. Construction workers, builders, plumbers, electricians, and other trade occupations tend to work in all sorts of weather conditions, so it’s important to be knowledgeable of the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses and to stay aware of the weather for the days ahead. There are different types of heat illnesses to watch out for, including heat rash, heat cramps, as well as heat stroke which is very dangerous if not treated right away. A heat rash is when sweat is trapped underneath the skin and can form blisters and can cause irritation. Heat cramps are the mildest form of heat-related illness and can be treated by simply replenishing your electrolytes with drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade and getting out of the heat. Heat stroke is very serious and if left untreated, can be fatal. Heat stroke is when the body will not regulate the temperature on its own and needs extra assistance from medical professionals. Even though heat-related issues are common illnesses when working in heat, it’s important to recognize the symptoms early on so nothing serious occurs.
Preventing Heat Illness at Work
The sun’s strong rays can do more damage than you might think. Depending on the location of the job site, whether it’s on a busy road, in a house, in a new building, or even underground, the sun can affect workers differently. It’s important to keep in mind the effects that the sun has on workers from different areas for them to beat the heat and prevent heat related illnesses. According to the CDC, intense heat can increase the chance of heat stroke and heat stress in workers, especially those who are not accustomed to its intensity when working. It’s also important to know that having workers be outdoors all day long will increase their chances of heat stroke or other heat related illness. A solution would be to only have workers outdoors during a portion of the day and trade out personnel so that people get solid breaks during the day.
How construction workers stay cool in the summer months is very important to the success of your business and keeping your workers healthy and able to do their jobs is crucial. Being out in the heat on a consistent basis can also increase the exhaustion levels of workers. The sun’s UV rays are so strong that they cause your body temperature to decrease, leading you to become dehydrated. Dehydration takes away your energy and important vitamins and minerals your body needs. Construction workers should have access to snacks during the day to keep their energy levels up to replace the water and salt that they’ve lost by sweating. Buying snacks in bulk is a great way to show your employees that you care about their wellbeing, plus you save money when buying in bulk.
The heat can cause a variety of issues for construction workers and any other person who works outside. It’s important to know and be aware of these issues and the treatments and precautions employers can take to make sure their employees are staying healthy and safe while at work. Just like being equipped with the right office supplies, having safety products to protect your employees from the sun and other extreme elements is crucial and will keep morale up while working outside. When you take proper care of your employees, business can be more successful than ever!
CDC. A Reminder from NIOSH: Stay Safe When Working Outdoors in Hot Weather. (www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates) Accessed June 29, 2022.
Mayo Clinic. Heat Exhaustion. (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/symptoms-causes/syc-20373250) Accessed July 13, 2022.
Saatva. This Is Why the Sun Makes You So Tired. (www.saatva.com/blog/why-does-the-sun-make-you-tired) Accessed June 29, 2022.
U.S. Department of Labor Blog. Best Practices on Preventing Heat Illness at Work. (blog.dol.gov/2021/05/27/best-practices-on-preventing-heat-illness-at-work) Accessed June 29, 2022.