Now that pandemic-related restrictions have been significantly rolled back and an influx of COVID-relief federal funding is expected, the construction sector is bracing itself for a busy summer. The season comes with a new set of challenges on the jobsite, including the risk of dehydration and overheating. The Weather Company has said this summer is expected to be hotter than average. In fact, we’ve already had some close to 90-degree days. With the weather warming up quickly, workers should take the time now to revisit safety precautions to be prepared for what’s to come.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as the temperature continues to rise.
- Consistently Monitor Weather Conditions & Prepare Accordingly
Before heading to the jobsite, check local news or weather websites for the day’s forecast. Make sure to closely monitor the hourly temperature changes as it will help you determine anticipated working conditions and give information regarding how to dress or prepare for the day ahead. On particularly hot days, wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural materials such as cotton. Try to avoid wearing restrictive, heavy, and synthetic clothing or material and colors that will attract the sun. Safety glasses with UV protection may help with strain on the eyes, and repeated applications of sunscreen are necessary to avoid sunburn.
- Remember to Hydrate
The key is to drink liquids – preferably water or something containing electrolytes – frequently. It is especially important for people who work outside and engage in manual labor – like many construction workers do – to remain hydrated, particularly through the summer heat. Learn to recognize the signs of dehydration, which can cause fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. On a job site, where there are many safety risks, it’s extra important that workers guard against dehydration. Before leaving for work, be sure to pack enough water or other liquids to remain properly hydrated throughout the day. Also, try to avoid drinking caffeine, as it is a diuretic, and be sure that your drinks are always cool, not room temperature.
- Gradually Build Up to Heavy Work
Based on your review of weather conditions, attempt to do the most labor-intensive work during the coolest time of the day. Temperatures can vary every hour throughout the day, and it is important that construction workers minimize risk. Over exertion combined with severe weather conditions will place workers at even greater risk for dehydration and fatigue.
When possible and if appropriate, be sure to take breaks while on the job site in designated cool areas. This will limit exposure to the hot weather conditions, allow you to properly hydrate, readjust clothing, and give your body a chance to recover from the heat.
- Seek Medical Attention If Necessary
Do not take the threat of heat exhaustion lightly. It is a very serious concern, and if left untreated, it can result in a life-threatening situation known as heat stroke, which occurs when your body temperature rises to 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Heat exhaustion begins with sudden excessive sweating, general muscle weakness, nausea, and vomiting. When heat stroke occurs, you will begin experiencing loss of consciousness, might become agitated or have other unexplained behavioral changes, and your skin will become hot and dry. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. In the short term, seek shade, apply a cool compress to the head, face or neck and/or back. Remove excess clothing if possible. Do drink liquids but avoid drinks that are ice cold. A rush of cold too quickly can actually do more harm than good, causing stomach cramps and raise the potential of shock.