The Hazards of Heat: Preparing for Summer

heat2When the mercury rises, construction workers become at risk for a host of heat-related illnesses and injury. Site managers should be vigilant about protecting workers who are exposed to elevated temperatures.

Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness, occurs when the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat and should be treated immediately by medical professionals. Other forms of illness include heat exhaustion from excess sweating resulting in dehydration. Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments.

OSHA recently kicked off its summer campaign to inform employers and employees about the dangers of working in the heat. The campaign will continue its annual outreach to highlight how heat-related worker fatalities are entirely preventable. According to the agency in 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job. #WaterRestShade is the official hashtag of the campaign.

In addition to drinking small quantities of water often, and avoiding strenuous outdoor work during elevated temperatures, OSHA emphasizes the importance of acclimatization. Acclimation is the process of gradually building up exposure to heat. This is especially important for workers who are new to working in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. OSHA recommends gradually increasing workloads and allowing more frequent breaks during the first week of work.

It is also advised that employers rotate job functions among workers to help minimize overexertion and heat exposure. Employers should also have an emergency plan in place that specifies what to do if a worker has signs of heat-related illness.

Proper training and work practices will go a long way to ensure your workers’ safety during the upcoming summer months. OSHA has an extensive online resource to help avoid any type of heat-related injury.

For more information about your specific construction safety needs, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.



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