With summer just around the corner, now is the time to refresh yourself on the various ways for you and your team to avoid heat stress and other heat-related illnesses while working outside.
While it is no secret that temperatures have been steadily rising across the globe these last few years, many people are still unaware of the dangers posed by heat stress. Construction workers – with long, heavy hours spent in the sun – are especially at risk during the warm summer months, with over 40% of heat-related deaths on the job occurring in the construction industry. Here are three tips for how to prevent heat-related illnesses:
1. Learn to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stress
The first step in keeping your crew protected in the heat is to educate them on the various symptoms associated with heat stress. This will not only help employees keep themselves safe, but also help them recognize the warning signs of heat-related illnesses in fellow team members before a potential emergency may arise.
These symptoms include:
– Heat rash, causing red bumps on the skin where sweat does not evaporate.
– Muscle spasms and pain in the abdomen, arms, or legs, which is a sign of heat cramps.
– Nausea, dizziness, and lightheadedness, which can lead to heat stroke.
Train your employees to look for these symptoms, check in with their buddies on the job site, and alert a supervisor if any problems should arise.
2. Avoid Scheduling Jobs During the Hottest Part of the Day
It should come as no surprise that the middle of the day – when sun is highest in the sky – is when temperatures are highest, and therefore, the most hazardous time for working outside.
Whenever possible, try and adjust work schedules to take advantage of the coolest parts of the day – early mornings and evenings. If your job requires heavy work to be done throughout the day, plan to have your crew work in shifts, with a break planned during the hottest time.
Additionally, be sure keep track of how many hours each team member is putting in and whether or not they are wearing thick clothing or protective gear. Some crew members may request overtime hours or fail to recognize heat-related symptoms before it is too late. It is up to you to monitor how hard your crew is working and adjust schedules accordingly.
3. Schedule Frequent Breaks and Create a Shady Hydration Station
It is extremely important that workers have access to water and shade while on a job site. Almost all heat-related ailments can be easily prevented by simply staying hydrated and limiting time spent in direct sunlight. You want to make it easy as possible for employees to take a break for a few minutes in the shade and hydrate.
If the site has no sources of shade, set up a canopy tent in an accessible location, preferably several different locations on larger sites. Stock a large supply of cold water bottles and sports drinks at various spots around your site to ensure that employees don’t have to travel far to hydrate themselves.
“It is essential that managers provide water and/or Gatorade to all stockers, helpers, and drivers during hot summer months,” says Jack Devine, Operations/Fleet Specialist for L&W Supply. “We provide a course on heat stress that all L&W Supply associates are required to take that walks them through the symptoms and warning signs.”
Another key prevention tactic is to be very vocal about the importance of hydration during hot days. Check in with your employees frequently to see how they are doing and schedule frequent, mandatory breaks. The mere act of reminding – or even insisting – crew members to hydrate themselves can go a long way towards preventing heat stress on hot days in the sun.
With these tips in mind, you should have all the information you need to help keep your employees safe during the hottest part of the year.
If you’d like to read more about heat stress prevention, check out the following links.