Summer is coming, and we all need to think about protecting workers during excessive heat.
With record-breaking temperatures in recent years, perhaps most notably here in the Pacific Northwest, it is incredibly important to make sure your employees are protected from heat-related illnesses and the complications that come from that.
Construction companies that employ workers who spend most of their time outdoors need to make considerable efforts to keep their workers cool and comfortable.
Here are some tips on how to best protect workers during excessive heat.
#1: Create cooling stations.
Whether it is misting fans throughout the job site or air-conditioned spaces on or off-site, make sure your employees have access to areas where they can cool off and take rest breaks
Exposure to excessive heat is exhausting, and your employees need to have a place where they can cool off and replenish their energy to avoid the risk of heat stroke and/or other high heat-related illnesses.
#2: Set limits.
With extreme heat seeming to become the new norm each year, it is important to designate how hot is too hot to work outside.
For example, consider adding a company policy that states that your employees working outside need to call it quits for the day when temperatures reach or exceed a certain temperature threshold.
Or you could have them start earlier in the day when it’s cooler so they can finish their work before the hottest part of the afternoon.
Remember, not only are your workers exposed to the heat of the sun; they are often required to work with concrete and other materials that heat the area even more.
#3: Provide proper gear.
Outdoor workers engaged in construction jobs — the whole range of workers in construction industries, actually — know how quickly things can heat up at a construction site.
Hats, light-colored clothing, sunglasses, and cold towels are all important things that your company should provide your construction workers to keep them cool.
#4: Know the signs of heat-related illnesses.
No matter what kinds of precautions you take, your employees may end up having an illness related to excessive heat exposure.
Be sure everyone on your team on the job site understands the signs of heat issues including a heat rash, heat exhaustion, or heatstroke.
Heatstroke is the most serious condition. Some of those symptoms include confusion and fatigue, seizure, a high body temperature, and excessive sweating or red, dry skin.
If this happens, it is important to get the person to a cool place immediately, remove outer clothing, apply ice, and call 911.
Working outside in the elements is a difficult job. It is important for workers and their bosses to be aware of heat stress and heat safety so that employees can prevent heat-related illnesses, injuries, or even death during high temperatures.
For additional information, rules and regulations, and more, we suggest visiting the website of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Additionally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has information that’s relevant to this topic. For example, they report that “there were “43 work-related deaths due to environmental heat exposure in 2019. This was lower than the high of 61 deaths in 2011 but higher than the number in all but one year from 2012 to 2018.”
We want all our colleagues in the construction industry to be safe and secure within their work environments. And while most companies recognize the importance of protecting workers during excessive heat, it’s always a good idea to make sure we’re all adhering to the latest in employee safety protocols.
These last few summers have been real doozies here in the great Pacific Northwest. And it looks like this summer heat trend may be just the start of things to come. Cities like Portland, Oregon, saw records fall left and right, including at least one day which saw the thermometer hit a scorching 108 degrees Fahrenheit — the hottest day in the city’s history.
Stay safe — and cool — out there this summer, everybody.