Heat Exhaustion in Construction

Summer is here and with it comes the heat. For those working in construction it means stress, exhaustion, and dehydration are all top concerns in the workplace. While some of us are sitting behind a computer in an air-conditioned office, there are many workers that are conducting their business outside underneath the sun and away from any fan or A/C unit. As a contractor or business owner, it’s important to follow proper guidelines to protect your employees and workers from heat exhaustion during these hotter months. 

While many guidelines are highlighted by the office of Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), follow the advice in this article to provide more than enough support and protection to keep everyone safe while working on the job. The key is always prevention. Ask yourself: ‘What am I proactively doing every day to make sure my construction workers are safe?’ If you don’t already have one, establish a complete plan to prevent any heat illness in the workplace. Start by educating yourself and your employees on the symptoms and risk factors associated with heat illnesses such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke. It’s not enough for just the managers and foremen to know how to recognize a symptom. Everyone must hold each other accountable to practice safety at all times. Workers should be educated on identifying when a worker shows dizziness, confusion, thirst, excessive sweating, and seizures. Once everyone is trained and employees understand the importance of excessive heat exposure, start taking steps to create a safer work environment. Kick the summer off by providing ample drinking water and encourage workers to also bring their own bottles. Invest in coolers to hold bottled water or to distribute water as needed. Every employee should drink at least a quart of water per hour to maintain adequate hydration. One tip to help out on really hot days is to add sports drink mix or electrolyte tabs to the water coolers. This will help workers replenish what’s lost while sweating during their shift. Discourage workers from drinking too many sodas or other beverages that will decrease output throughout the day. Provide shade for workers to take frequent breaks and get out of the sun. Shade is a must for workers to get through a hot day and to cool off when they do feel under the weather. Don’t hesitate to open a site trailer or ventilated area for workers to break from the sun. Stay ahead of the forecast and add protective measures as the weather increases in temperature. Remind your workers about wearing clothing that helps keep them cool except in cases where protective clothing is required. For the hottest weeks, consult your employees about switching to an alternative schedule to help increase productivity and safety on the job site as temps rise. Continue to monitor the heat index and be an advocate for the safety of your employees. Push them to take breaks, consume water, and spend time in the shade as the index rises throughout the day.

Every company should have a program in place to protect its workers from the heat. Getting through the summer is about working smarter, not harder. Beat the heat this summer with the advice in this article for keeping cool while working in construction.