Heat Stress In Construction

Summer is here and with it comes the dangers associated with heat, especially for those working outside throughout the summer months. It is important that workers know the dangers associated with extreme heat and are educated on ways to prevent and treat illness that arises as a result of increasing temperatures. Below, are ways to insure you don’t fall victim to a heat related illness:   

Heat Stress Environments

Exposure to heat stresses can occur in:

  • Outdoor environments
  • Indoor environments with insufficient building insulation, ventilation, and cooling
  • Indoor environments where tasks require warm conditions
  • Any environments (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 Stroke
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat cramps
  • Heat rash

Heat Stress Symptoms

Early symptoms of heat stresses include:

  • Fatigue
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headache
  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • High pulse rate

Heat-Related Incidents

When working in the heat, you may experience physical reactions that could result in workplace incidents, including:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Fogged-up safety glasses
  • Dizziness
  • Balance difficulties
  • Headaches
  • Burns (from contact with hot surfaces or steam)

Other Risks

You may have a greater risk of heat stress if you have a pre-existing health condition, such as:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure

If you are 65 years or older, or are taking medications that may be affected by heat, you also have a greater risk of heat-related hazards.

Proper Clothing

You can minimize heat stress by wearing appropriate clothing. When working in hot environments, select clothing that is:

  • Light colored
  • Loose fitting
  • 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.

Adequate Hydration

Minimize heat stress by:

  • Drinking water frequently
  • Avoiding drinks with caffeine, alcohol and sugar
  • Choosing liquids with electrolytes

Monitor Self 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 during the heat of summer, click here for tips on how to keep your equipment up and running in the heat.

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