Summer is here! With it comes the dangers associated with heat, especially for those working outside throughout the summer months. It’s important to know the dangers of heat stress and be educated on ways to prevent and treat heat-related illnesses. Read our tips on avoiding extreme heat in construction.
Heat Stress Environments
Exposure to heat stress can occur in:
- Outdoor environments
- Indoor environments with insufficient insulation, ventilation, and cooling
- Indoor environments where tasks require warm conditions
- Any environment (even cool ones) where work tasks are physically demanding for extended periods of time
Heat Stress Hazards
Hazards that can result from heat stresses include:
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat cramps
- Heat rash
Read up on the symptoms of heatstroke and learn how to prevent it.
Heat Stress Symptoms
Early symptoms of heat stress include:
- Heavy sweating
- High pulse rate
When working in the heat, you may experience physical reactions that could result in workplace incidents, including:
- Sweaty palms
- Fogged-up safety glasses
- Balance difficulties
- Burns (from contact with hot surfaces or steam)
You may have a greater risk of heat stress if you have a pre-existing health condition, such as:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
If you are 65 years or older, or are taking certain medications, you also have a greater risk of heat-related hazards.
You can minimize heat stress by wearing appropriate clothing. When working in hot environments, select clothing that is:
- Breathable (cotton, not synthetic)
Note that using PPE may increase your risk of heat stress. Since PPE is still required, even in hot conditions, it is critical that you plan accordingly and prevent heat stress through safe work practices, hydration, and by regularly monitoring yourself and others.
Safe Work Practices
You can minimize heat stresses by following these general safe work practices:
- If you are not used to hot work conditions, don’t attempt to do too much too fast; gradually build up to heavy work.
- Use the coolest part of the day for the most intense work.
- Take more breaks throughout the work day and develop an hourly work-rest cycle.
- Use areas of shade or cool whenever possible and especially when taking breaks.
- Monitor weather conditions prior to work and as they change throughout the day.
Minimize heat stress by:
- Drinking water frequently
- Avoiding drinks with caffeine, alcohol and sugar
- Choosing liquids with electrolytes
Monitor Yourself and Others
Minimize heat stress by:
- Monitoring yourself and your co-workers for signs and symptoms of heat stress illness.
- Informing your supervisor of existing medical conditions that may increase your risks when working in hot environments.
- Being extra cautious when you or your co-workers have existing medical conditions or are taking medications that may increase the risks of working in hot environments.
Now that you have learned how to keep yourself safe with extreme heat in construction, click here for tips on how to keep your equipment up and running in the heat.
Prepare your equipment, jobsites, and employees for warmer temperatures to help avoid injuries and downtime from work. Visit our blog to learn more summer safety tips!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2020. We updated it for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness in February 2023.