Summer is here, and in addition to trips to the beach and warm temperatures, it is also the peak season for construction work. It’s vital to stay safe when you’re working outdoors during these hot months. Here are some of the top construction safety tips for summertime construction.
1. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated when working in the heat is vital. There’s more to it than drinking water, though that is part of it. You should also eat foods that have high water content. Fruits and vegetables like melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes all fall into this category.
Make sure you’re also monitoring your salt and electrolyte levels, especially if you sweat heavily. Drinks like Gatorade can help keep your systems balanced while you work. Supervisors should be supplying both water and electrolytes, but if they don’t, make sure you’re drinking enough to stay hydrated.
2. Practice Sun Safety
Sunburns are uncomfortable and unnecessary. In addition to raising your risk of skin cancer, having a sunburn makes you more likely to remove safety gear or other clothing that might be chafing the already sensitive skin. There are multiple ways to protect yourself from the sun, ranging from applying — and reapplying — sunscreen throughout the day to working in the shade and wearing UV-protected clothing.
3. Monitor the Weather
In many parts of the country, summertime also brings heavy rain and severe storms that can seemingly blow up out of nowhere. Workers carrying out their tasks on rooftops or scaffolding could be at risk due to suddenly wet surfaces and high winds.
Ensure you’re constantly monitoring the weather and act accordingly. You don’t need to cancel an afternoon of work because of a thunderstorm, but you need to get people off the roof if lightning is flashing and you need to take extra precautions against slips and falls when surfaces are wet.
4. Dress Properly for the Weather
While we’re on the topic of weather, we should address appropriate attire. When the temperature climbs, it’s often tempting to wear as little as possible, but this doesn’t work on a construction site. Ensure you’re dressing properly for the weather. This could include long-sleeved shirts designed to protect your skin from the sunlight or outfits made of breathable fabrics. Workers should also always wear protective gear and closed-toed shoes.
5. Understand OSHA’s Fatal 4
There are many different ways to get hurt on a construction site, but some are more common than others. The top four risks that result in on-the-job deaths are known as OSHA’s Fatal 4. Falls are the No. 1 killer on construction sites, followed by electrical exposure, struck-by incidents, and caught-in/between accidents.
Don’t neglect other safety concerns that can happen year-round, such as forklift accidents and heavy lifting injuries. However, understanding the fatal four can make it easier to prevent them from happening on your site.
6. Take Frequent Breaks
Working from sunup to sundown might seem like the most efficient way to get the job done, but trying to push through an entire shift without breaks in the hot summer months is a fast way to find yourself suffering a heat-related illness. Make sure you’re taking frequent breaks in a shaded area to cool off.
Try to avoid moving in and out of air-conditioned areas if at all possible. The shocks to your system when moving from 100+ degree weather outdoors to 68-degree climate-controlled environments indoors can make it harder to adapt. This could increase your risk of heat-related illnesses.
7. Stay in the Shade
If you don’t have buildings or trees to provide shade on the job site, it’s a good idea to make your own. All you really need is a tarp and some rope to keep the sun off the work area. Shade cloth can also help you keep the sun off your head. You might have items you’d use in a landscaping project or a garden stashed away in your materials collection that would work well.
8. Recognize Signs of Heat-Related Illness
No one is immune from heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The important thing is to learn to recognize the signs so you can treat them or get medical attention as quickly as possible. Individuals with heat exhaustion will often sweat heavily, feel nauseous, and get dizzy or faint. They will need to be moved to a cool location and get lots of hydration.
Symptoms indicative of heat stroke include dry skin because the person has stopped sweating, as well as a fast pulse, dizziness, and nausea. Heatstroke victims need medical attention as soon as possible.
9. Opt for Safety Gear Designed for Heat
Don’t fall into the trap of taking off safety gear just because it’s hot out. Instead, opt for items designed for use in hot climates. Use mesh visibility vests that allow air to pass through instead of solid ones. Opt for well-ventilated hard hats, and when full-body gear is required, only wear them for short periods.
Water- or fan-cooled garments are also an option. Many brands of PPE offer auxiliary cooling systems that will help keep you cool with the equipment that keeps you safe.
10. Avoid Peak Hours
The hottest hours of the day are usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This also happens to fall during the normal shift for most construction companies, but if you’re concerned about summertime safety, consider restructuring your schedule.
Avoiding these peak hours might seem a little strange at first, but it can reduce your risk of experiencing heat-related illnesses and keep things moving forward no matter how hot it gets. Try starting your day earlier or taking a long break in the afternoon.
Stay Safe This Summer
Many of the safety challenges we face on a construction site are the same year-round. When temperatures start to climb, the heat adds a new layer of concern. Make sure you’re taking all the necessary steps to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun while still preventing other safety issues that can crop up at any time.
Rose Morrison is a freelance writer working on construction, home improvement, and contract topics. She is also the editor-in-chief of Renovated.com, a site dedicated to the latest trends in the housing industry. She is passionate about innovative technologies that make the home industry sustainable and efficient. Checking out Renovated.com to see more of her work.