Protecting Employees from Summer Heat

The days are getting warmer and longer and summer is on its way. For many people that means sand and sun and time at the pool, but for construction workers – and others who work outdoors for a living – summertime is not all fun and games. In fact, it can be downright dangerous if the proper safety precautions are not put in place. Here’s more information about protecting employees from summer heat.

So how can you protect yourself and your employees when the temperatures soar? The most important way is to educate your employees to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion. These include cramps, thirst, dizziness, nausea, faintness, fever, headache, and the absence of sweat. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which is a medical emergency that can be fatal.

When it comes to working outdoors in extreme heat, the old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” rings especially true. In order to ensure the safety of all outdoor workers, the following precautions should be taken:

  1. Acclimate workers to the environment. Although prolonged exposure to extreme heat is dangerous, by progressively exposing workers to severe conditions over a period of time such dangers can be greatly reduced.
  2. Make sure workers are drinking plenty of the right kinds of liquids. Cool water or other non-caffeinated beverages should be consumed by all outdoor workers. It is important that plenty of these types of drinks are placed throughout the work site.
  3. Restrict physically demanding tasks. Physical exhaustion can lead to heat exhaustion so during periods of extreme heat it is important to try to limit such activities. If such activities cannot be avoided, it is important to cycle through workers so no one person is left doing all of the heavy lifting all of the time.
  4. Provide some relief from the heat. Air-conditioned enclosures, or at least shaded areas, where workers can take a break and replenish fluids periodically throughout the day may seem like an extravagance but will go a long way toward keeping workers up for their work in the blazing hot sun.
  5. Adjust the schedule. Jobs that are particularly taxing or out in the open with no shade should as much as possible be scheduled for before or after the hottest parts of the day.
  6. Encourage workers to keep an eye on one another. Many times an individual won’t admit – or won’t know – when he or she is becoming dangerously overheated. Make sure everyone checks on one another and if a problem is suspected, medical assistance should be called for immediately.

The nature of the construction industry means often working in less than ideal conditions – including extreme heat. However, by training employees on the signs of heat exhaustion and taking the proper precautions to protect workers in extreme heat, the risks to your employees can be substantially reduced.