Staying Safe in the Summer Heat:  Essential Tips for Construction Businesses and Their Workers 

worker with heat safety signage

As temperatures continue to rise globally, the construction industry faces increasing challenges related to heat stress and worker safety. A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco highlights the negative effect extreme heat can have on the U.S. economy. Their study projects that decreased productivity in the construction industry would negatively impact the whole economy by slowing capital accumulation. This is in addition to the lost labor productivity within the construction sector itself, which relies heavily on outdoor labor. This study underscores the critical need for effective heat hazard management to ensure the safety and productivity of skilled tradespeople and to minimize the downstream economic consequences. 

High temperatures are not just uncomfortable; they are dangerous. Prolonged exposure to extreme summer temperatures can lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Construction workers, who often engage in strenuous physical activity under the sun, are especially vulnerable. 

The study predicts a significant increase in the number of days per year that will exceed safe thresholds for heavy work. This escalation is projected to rise from 22 days in 2020 to roughly 80 within the next 74 years. This will have profound implications for worker health and productivity, emphasizing the urgency of addressing heat hazards. 

To mitigate these risks, construction firms need to implement comprehensive heat safety protocols. This includes not only reactive measures but also proactive planning and continuous education. 

 Effective Strategies for Managing Heat Hazards 

Schedule Adjustments: 

  • Early Starts and Late Finishes: Adjust work hours to cooler parts of the day, typically early mornings and late afternoons. This approach helps avoid the most intense heat of midday. 
  • Flexible Work Schedules: Allow workers to take more frequent breaks during peak heat periods and extend project deadlines to accommodate these adjustments. 

Hydration and Nutrition: 

  • Hydration Stations: Ensure there are plenty of water stations on site. Workers should drink water every 15-20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty. 
  • Optimized Diet: Encourage a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that can help maintain hydration levels. Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks that can contribute to dehydration. 

Protective Gear: 

  • Lightweight, Breathable Clothing: Equip workers with clothing made from breathable fabrics that wick away sweat. Light colors are preferable as they reflect sunlight. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Use wide-brimmed hats, if possible, UV-blocking sunglasses, and sunscreen with a high SPF rating to protect against direct sunlight. 

Worksite Modifications: 

  • Shade Structures: Install temporary shelters or canopies to provide shaded rest areas. 
  • Cooling Stations: Set up areas with fans or misting devices to help lower body temperature during breaks. 

Training and Education: 

  • Heat Illness Prevention Training: Conduct regular training sessions to educate workers about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke and the importance of early intervention. Include materials that cover prevention measures such as frequent hydration – including drinking before becoming thirsty – and sun protection. 
  • Virtual reality (VR) training programs can educate workers on heat safety protocols and emergency response procedures in an immersive, engaging manner, increasing retention and understanding of crucial information. 
  • Buddy System: Implement a buddy system where workers monitor each other for signs of heat stress. 

Health Monitoring: 

  • Regular Health Checks: Encourage workers to undergo regular health screenings to identify any conditions that might increase their risk of heat-related illnesses. 
  • On-Site Medical Support: Have medical personnel or first aid responders on site, especially during extreme heat conditions, to provide immediate assistance if needed. 

 The Role of Technology in Heat Safety 

Advancements in technology can play a crucial role in enhancing heat safety. Wearable devices that monitor vital signs such as heart rate, body temperature, and hydration levels can provide real-time data to alert workers and supervisors of potential heat stress. Mobile apps that offer heat index forecasts and personalized hydration reminders can also be valuable tools for maintaining safety on site. 

Environmental sensors can be strategically placed around construction sites to continuously measure temperature, humidity, and heat index levels. These sensors can send alerts when conditions become hazardous, enabling proactive measures to be taken before workers are affected. 

Smart clothing embedded with cooling technologies or moisture-wicking fabrics can help manage body temperature and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses. Furthermore, exoskeletons and other assistive devices can lessen physical strain on workers, reducing the overall impact of heat on their bodies. 

Data analytics platforms can aggregate and analyze the information collected from various technological devices, offering insights into patterns and trends. This can help in predicting high-risk periods and optimizing work schedules to avoid the hottest parts of the day. 

Remote monitoring and management systems allow supervisors to oversee multiple sites simultaneously, ensuring that safety protocols are being followed and that workers are taking necessary breaks and staying hydrated. 

Adaptation and Long-Term Planning 

While immediate measures are essential, long-term strategies are equally important. The study suggests that relocating some production to cooler regions and investing in climate-resilient infrastructure could mitigate the impact of extreme heat. Additionally, exploring new construction methods and materials that are less susceptible to heat-related productivity losses can offer sustainable solutions. 

The Future Is Now: Heat Hazard Management Strategies 

The increasing threat of extreme heat requires construction firms to prioritize the safety and well-being of their workers. By implementing comprehensive heat hazard management strategies, companies can protect their employees, maintain productivity, and contribute to the overall resilience of the industry. As temperatures continue to rise, proactive and adaptive measures will be necessary to safeguard both the health of construction workers and the economic stability of the sector. Together, we can build a safer, more resilient construction industry.  

Does your worksite need more skilled labor? We can help bring skilled tradespeople on board for you. Learn more here. 

Workplace Safety Month: Keeping Your Construction Team Safe

Did you know that June is National Safety Month? Safety is so important for your construction employees that an entire month is dedicated to increasing awareness of the issue.

Working construction in Summer increases the need for additional safety measures. More sunshine, heat, and humidity means you need to take additional precautions to protect your employees.

Implement the following tips to increase safety for your construction employees during hot weather.

Guard Against Heat Exhaustion 

Heat exhaustion is caused by the body becoming overheated to the point where it cannot cool itself down. This can turn into heat stroke if left untreated.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include the following: 

  • Intense sweating 
  • A rapid or weak pulse  
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Cool skin with goosebumps despite the heat 
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Nausea  
  • Headaches  
  • Fatigue, dizziness, or fainting

Protect Against Heat Stroke  

Heat stroke can occur when the body is exposed to excessively high temperatures for an extended time. The body’s natural temperature regulating mechanisms fail, causing a fever and the potential to lose consciousness.

Symptoms of heat stroke include the following: 

  • A core temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher 
  • Change in sweating patterns 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Headache  
  • Red skin 
  • Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, or delirium  
  • Nausea or vomiting 

If left untreated, heat stroke can lead to muscle, kidney, heart, or brain damage or death.

Monitor Your Employees’ Work Schedule

Try to avoid having your employees work during the hottest hours of the day. For instance, have your employees begin work earlier in the morning, before the sun has had time to increase the temperature. This can reduce the time spent working outside during the midday heat. Also, if parts of the job require indoor work, consider having your employees work inside during the hottest hours and outside when the temperature is less extreme.

Provide Regular Breaks

Ensure your employees take frequent breaks. Continuous engagement in demanding work increases the odds of your employees becoming injured or ill. This is why they need additional breaks as the day gets hotter.

Remind your employees to sit down in the shade during breaks. If there are no trees or other natural sources of shade, you may need to put up tents, awnings, or other items to create shade.

Provide Water 

Remind your employees to drink lots of water throughout the day. Staying hydrated in the heat is vital for your employees’ health.

You may want to make available large coolers packed with ice and water. Also, ensure your employees are drinking water at least once every 15 minutes throughout the day. This applies even when employees don’t feel thirsty. Regular hydration promotes proper sweating to regulate the body’s core temperature.

Want to Add to Your Construction Team?

Trade Management has the construction workers you need to complete projects. Contact us to learn more today. 

Spring Construction Safety Tips

spring construction

spring construction

As Spring nears, so does construction season. The longer hours of daylight provide more time to work. However, the unpredictable weather conditions can lead to an increased risk of accidents on the jobsite. This is why you need to be increasingly aware of how to reduce the odds of injuries.

Implement the following tips to increase safety while working on a construction site this Spring.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment

Spring construction sites can be wet, muddy, and windy, making it easier to slip and fall.
Wear waterproof boots with good traction.
Wear a high-visibility raincoat and gloves with a slip-proof grip to increase awareness of your presence in areas with vehicle traffic.
If you wear a hood, turn your head to look for vehicles and people in your peripheral vision.
Use anti-fog spray on your safety glasses to keep your vision clear.

Wipe Away Mud

Before mounting the equipment, clear any mud from the steps, the rungs, and your boots.
Mud can make the equipment slippery, which can lead to injuries.
Slow your pace to reduce the odds of getting hurt.

Increase Safety with the Excavator

Implement safety measures to reduce of odds of injury while using an excavator.
Check the ground for stability before moving an excavator across it. Soft ground can cause the equipment to tip or roll over.
Wear a seat belt when operating an excavator.
Use in-vehicle video cameras, proximity detection devices, tag-based systems, or a spotter to detect whether someone is behind you when backing up.

Wear Fall Protection Equipment

Spring winds and rain can make working at heights more dangerous.
Know how to properly fit a body harness. Have a partner check to ensure that all parts are properly in place and working.
Know the safe anchor points for a personal fall arrest system.

Maintain Scaffold Safety

Scaffolds may be used only when the weather permits, not during rain or high winds.
Make sure you are properly trained to use the scaffold.
Wear personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, work gloves, safety shoes or boots, and fall protection.
Know the weight capacity of the scaffold.
Be aware of any coworkers above, below, or next to you.

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Post-COVID Safety Tips for Tradesmen

Have you considered your safety procedures for getting back to work? Now that more projects are restarting, tradesmen around the country are returning to worksites. Getting back to work is great but maintaining the proper safety policies is imperative in order to keep your business running and your team healthy. Here are a few safety tips for the worksite.

Stay home if you’re sick

Not coming to work due to illness may be a foreign concept to some, but never has it been more important than now. Make sure your fellow tradesmen on the job understand that it’s not a question, but a directive, as they have has the potential to infect the whole crew. Because people may be hesitant to use their leave, remind them of policies established by the government providing time off for COVID as well as any company-specific time off policies.

Start each shift by screening temperatures.

The first thing your workers should do when arriving on-site is to have their contactless temperature recorded. Establish a maximum temperature and turn away anyone who doesn’t fall under the maximum. With temperature being such a common symptom, you can’t risk an employee bringing their germs around everyone else.

Provide hand sanitizer or handwashing stations

Depending on where you’re working, you may not have access to a full sink, but make sure there is plenty of hand sanitizer and that it is being used. Hang signs with proper procedures and reinforce the necessity to keep surfaces clean.

Decide the necessary PPE.

Your personal protective equipment (PPE) was valuable to you at work long before COVID, but now it serves a dual purpose. Make sure your team is following the physical safety guidelines for the site as well as keeping the proper masks on, especially when social distancing cannot be maintained.

Remind workers about proper respiratory practices

Every sneeze and cough aren’t indications of the virus but can be a contributing factor in spreading the virus. Make sure your team knows to cough and sneeze into their elbows instead of into their hands. While the mask creates a barrier, you don’t want the employee to somehow get germs on their hands and then spread them to surfaces used by others.

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