As summer weather is gearing up in New York City, construction workers will face long, hot workdays in the months ahead. Summer is peak construction season, making it crucial to prepare for the elongated scorching days to come. OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign can be summed up in three words: water, rest, shade. This year, there is also additional COVID-19 guidance to take into account while beating the heat. Here are some tips on the best ways to stay cool amidst rising temperatures – while also adhering to the latest New York State COVID-19 guidelines.
Hydration is Key
The single most important way to keep yourself cool during the summertime heat is to drink plenty of water on the construction site. Start hydrating before coming to work, and aim to drink something every 15 to 20 minutes when on the job. Frequent hydration breaks will prevent your body from becoming overheated and dehydrated. Bring a water bottle to work that you can refill throughout the day, but make sure it is properly cleaned and sanitized before taking it onsite. When taking water breaks, stick to drinking from your own bottle, rather than risking sharing germs.
Protection through Loose-Fitting Clothing
Dress appropriately for hot weather by wearing loose-fitting, lightweight clothing – and masks – that allow your body to breathe. Light-colored fabric will help reflect the sun’s rays and maintain your body’s healthy temperature. In addition to mandated face coverings when you are within six feet of someone else, cover your neck with a bandana or light-colored scarf to prevent sunburns. When not wearing a hard hat, be sure to wear a hat to protect your head as well.
Frequently reapply sunscreen throughout the day to protect your skin from the sun. Excessive sweating can wash away sunscreen or reduce its protection so make sure to continually layer more as the workday progresses. Your sunscreen of choice should have at least a 30 SPF rating. Don’t forget to apply to the most burn-prone areas as well: your nose, ears, and the back of your neck. Pack your own sunscreen bottle – mitigate COVID-19 risk by avoiding sharing with fellow workers.
In addition to frequent water breaks, adjusting what you eat in a day during the hot summer months can help with the difficult working conditions. Avoid high-fat, heavy, and greasy foods which can make you feel bloated and nauseous – a bad combination for working in extreme heat.
Try to mix leafy green vegetables into your meals or eat some fresh fruit and nuts for snacks, to help with replenishing electrolytes. Minimize your caffeine and sugary drink intake as these beverages may lead to dehydration.
Damp Towel for Cooling
Put a damp towel in the freezer the night before to wrap around your neck the next day. The towel will protect your neck from the sun, and cool you as it melts. Immediate relief can also be felt by putting the damp, cold towel in your underarms. Again, make sure to use your own towel and avoid sharing with others.
Be sure to take breaks in the shade to let your body have some rest from the sun’s heat. If you have access to an air-conditioned building or car, avoid moving frequently in and out of the cooled area as it makes it harder for your body to adjust to the heat. During breaks, continue to maintain the same social distancing rules that you adhere while working.
For more information on OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign, click here.
For more information on New York State’s COVID-19 Construction Guidelines, click here.