As summer heat picks up with some of the hottest days on record, we wanted to round up some construction summer safety tips. Heat exhaustion and heat stress are preventable and these tips will help keep your construction site safe during the upcoming months. Workers die from heat related illnesses every summer and every death is preventable. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion are at greater risk for accidents, since they are less alert and can be confused. Let’s look at who is susceptible and how to prevent injuries in a hot work environment.
There are five serious illness related to heat stress. Before you can recognize symptoms or treatment of these illnesses, you need to have a general understanding of what each of the illnesses are. The illnesses related to heat stress are:
· Heat Rash – A skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. o Symptoms: Looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
o Treatment: In most cases it will clear up on its own in a few days. Cool your body and take a cool shower or bath, allowing area to air dry. DO NOT apply oil‐based products, which might block your sweat glands.
· Heat Syncope – A fainting (syncope) episode or dizziness that usually occurs with prolonged standing or sudden rising from a sitting or lying position. Factors that may contribute to heat syncope include dehydration and lack of acclimatization.
o Symptoms: Light‐headedness, dizziness or fainting. o Treatment: Sit or lie down in a cool place when you begin to feel symptoms. Slowly drink water, clear juice or a sports beverage.
· Heat Cramps – Usually affect workers who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. This sweating depletes the body's electrolyte and moisture levels. Low electrolyte levels in muscles causes painful cramps. (Heat cramps may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.)
o Symptoms: Muscle pain or spasms usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs.
o Treatment: Stop all activity and sit in a cool place. Drink clear juice, sports beverage or water with food. Avoid salt tablets. Don’t return to strenuous work for a few hours after cramps subside. If cramps do not subside within one hour, seek medical attention.
Heat Exhaustion – The body's response to an excessive loss of the water and sodium, usually through excessive sweating. Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment.
o Symptoms: Confusion or agitation, nausea, dizziness, dilated pupils,
o Treatment: Rest in a cool area. Drink plenty of water or other cool beverages. Apply ice packs on the back of neck and inside joints. Take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath.
· Heat Stroke ‐ The most serious heat‐related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. That’s where the body's temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106° F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.
o Symptoms: Slurred speech, convulsions, decreased sweating and urination, constricted pupils, confusion or hallucinations, nausea and vomiting, throbbing headache. Body temperature of 106° F.
o Treatment: Contact emergency medical services immediately. Move the worker to a cool, shaded area. Remove excess clothing. Apply cool water to their body and fan their body. DO NOT give fluids or water.
Pay close attention to the differences in symptoms of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke. Without proper attention, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke or heat stroke can occur suddenly, without any symptoms of heat exhaustion. If a person is experiencing any symptoms
of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, GET MEDICAL CARE IMMEDIATELY ‐ CALL 911. Any delay could be fatal.
Water, rest, and shade can mean the difference between life and death. Getting acclimated and building tolerance to working in the heat helps prevent heat‐related illnesses and deaths as well. This is true especially for new workers, those who have been away for a week or more, and all workers during a sudden heat wave.
Avoid heavy exertion, extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity, when possible. If you can’t, take these preventative steps to prevent being overcome by the heat:
· Hydrate ‐ Drink lots of water even when you’re not thirsty.
· Take rest breaks in the shade.
· Watch out for each other while work progresses.
· Wear light and loose clothing.
Make sure you don’t overdo it. This is just as important as any other prevention, pace yourself in any work activity.
By incorporating these heat weather basics into your routine and working a good plan, you will keep yourself and your crew safe and free from heat stress related illness and injuries!
Our team is always staying on top of the latest safety trends to ensure your construction projects are completed safely and on time. To learn about all our construction development offerings, visit our website.