As the temperature starts to rise around the country, so does the risk of your workers experiencing heat-related illness, In fact, 40% of all worker deaths related to heat come from the construction industry. The nature of the work often requires workers to stay exposed to the sun and heat. Recognizing the hazards and putting procedures in place to keep workers safe is part of OSHA’s Water.Rest.Shade. campaign.
Here are some common-sense, easy-to-implement steps that employers can take to reduce the strain of working in hot weather.
Build up new workers’ tolerance to heat exposure gradually. If you have a new worker or one who’s been away from work for longer than a week, gradually introduce them to working in the heat. It takes someone time to adjust to working in warmer temperatures. It’s not realistic to assume someone not used to working for long periods in the sun will be ready to put in a full day’s work outdoors right away. More frequent breaks may be needed as the worker builds up his or her tolerance to the heat.
Provide plenty of water and shade. Whenever possible, provide as much shade as possible. This could include setting up a tent close to the job site to give workers a cool place to stand when taking breaks. Some employers set up misters or fans to provide added coolness during hot weather. Ensuring that there’s plenty of cold water available will help to prevent dehydration.
Spread out the sun exposure. Divvying out tasks that involve lots of exposure between members of the crew helps to more evenly distribute the heat-related stress. Also, if some tasks involve working directly in the sun and some don’t, consider scheduling tasks with direct exposure first thing in the morning.
Train workers to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness. It’s important that workers be given the tools to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Training workers to know what to look for increases the likelihood they’ll recognize those symptoms in themselves or others as soon as they start to experience them. Emphasize to workers the importance or monitoring themselves and others they work with for signs of heat-related illness.
Many jobs in the construction industry involve being outdoors for long periods of time. By carefully planning each job site and implementing a solid worker training program, you can help your employees avoid falling victim to a heat-related illness. If you’re interested in learning more, we’ve created a list of helpful resources below.
- Heat-related illnesses and their symptoms
- First aid for heat-related illnesses
- Working outdoors in warm climates OSHA FactSheet
- Protecting yourself from the sun
- How hot is too hot?