Thousands of workers across the country fall victim to occupational heat exposure every year. Some even die. In fact, over 40 percent of those deaths occur in the construction industry. These preventable incidents can affect anyone working as a contractor in hot weather regardless of their age or condition.
As summer begins, learn how you can prevent your workers from getting unnecessarily sick in the sun.
Working as a Contractor in the Sun can be Dangerous
If your construction laborers work outside in the summer, they are at risk for heat-related illnesses, like heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
The Factors that Put Workers at Risk
There are environmental and job-specific risk factors that contractors should learn to recognize.
- High temperature and humidity
- Radiant heat sources
- Direct sun exposure (without shade)
- Limited air movement (no breeze, wind or ventilation)
- Physical exertion
- Use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and equipment
Heat stress can be caused by engaging in heavy physical labor when the temperature is high and the sun is bright. It can lead to many illnesses like rashes, cramps, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.
In order to prevent a serious issue, you should be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting
- Moist skin
- Confusion or irritability
- Upset stomach
- Extremely high body temperature
- Red, hot and dry skin without sweat
- Rapid pulse
- Throbbing headache
5 Hot Weather Precautions every Contractor should take
OSHA requires employers to provide a workplace that is free of safety hazards, including extreme heat. In order to protect your employees, use these five cool tips for working as a contractor in hot weather.
1) Acclimate to the Weather
Many heat-related health issues occur in the first days of summer simply because workers’ bodies have yet to adjust to the season. You can protect workers by gradually easing them into sun exposure, so they can build up a tolerance.
2) Stay Hydrated
Just like athletes, contractors need to stay hydrated when they work, especially in the summer. Laborers should drink two to four cups of water every hour and avoid caffeine, alcohol and large amounts of sugar.
3) Take Breaks
In hot weather, contractors will need cool down periods. As an employer, you should direct workers to take frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas.
4) Avoid the Hottest Parts of the Day
You may also have to adjust your schedule to the weather conditions. If you limit outdoor work to the morning or evening, you can avoid peak sun hours when many heat-related illnesses occur.
5) Dress Appropriately for the Season
The clothes and uniforms workers wear can become a safety hazard when it gets really hot. It’s highly suggested that everyone wears lightweight, light-colored clothing.
Just like any other safety issue, every contractor should plan for heat emergencies. Throughout the summer, make sure to monitor the signs and symptoms of heat illness to keep your workforce in top shape.