Summer is the most popular season for construction work since the weather is mostly pleasant and predictable. Still, when spending many hours outside for summer construction work, it's important to be mindful of the heat. Here are some construction safety tips to help protect you and your workers from sunburns, exhaustion and heatstroke.
Fluids — especially water — are the best defense against the heat. Make sure all of your workers have a bottle of water nearby and have a cooler available for refill.
For alternatives to plain water, squeeze a lemon slice into your bottle or opt for sports drinks that will replenish the electrolytes you lose when sweating. Avoid sodas, energy drinks and anything with caffeine, as these have minimal hydration benefits.
High-fat, greasy meals — like burgers and fries — weigh you down, and your body uses more energy in digesting them. Choosing a light and filling meal — like a sandwich, salad and fruit — curbs hunger and helps you stay alert.
In addition to the required safety gear, wear clothing that is light-colored, loose and breathable. This safety measure will reflect sunlight and make it easier for heat to escape, keeping you cool as you work. For further protection, wear a hat or sunglasses as well as sunscreen to safeguard your skin against sunburn.
Sleep gives your body time to heal and energize for the next day, allowing you to handle the heat better. Aim for at least eight hours every night to make sure you get enough REM sleep. It may help to make your bedroom dark and cool, using curtains and fans if necessary.
The morning and evening are the coolest times of the day and offer an ideal opportunity to do intense outdoor work. The hot afternoon — from about noon to 3 p.m. — is best for indoor work or a lunch break.
Giving yourself a break helps you keep cool, stay well-rested and avoid overheating. If there is no natural shade around your job site, provide some for your workers with umbrellas or an awning. To get the most out of your break, stay outside rather than retreating to the air conditioning — it will be easier to get used to the heat since your body won't experience radical temperature changes.
As you are working, be mindful of how you feel and observe your workers' behavior. Symptoms of heatstroke include:
Bring affected workers into the shade to rehydrate and call 911 if necessary. Train your employees on heat safety so they know what to look for in themselves and others.
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