It’s finally June, the month of summer, sunshine… and safety. That’s right — we said safety! If you’re thinking one of these things is not like the the other, hear us out.
June is National Safety Month, and while safety may not be as appealing as a sunny, summer day, it’s incredibly important, especially to construction professionals across the nation.
As part of National Safety Month, EquipmentShare is excited to educate our customers and other construction professionals about all the ways our smart jobsite technology, Track, increases safety at the jobsite. But first, let’s get one thing straight: Jobsite safety is especially important in the summer months, and you don’t need to immediately invest in technology to keep you and your team safe and sound at work.
Here’s a rundown of timeless summer construction safety tips you and your team can implement now.
1. Stay hydrated and eat smart
This is an obvious one. When you’re working hard and sweating under the sun, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Most of us can tell when we’re hungry and thirsty, especially during a long work day. But your body can be dehydrated long before you feel the physical symptoms of dehydration.
Prevent dehydration by drinking water by upping your water intake before your workday even begins — the sooner, the better. Additionally, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to stop for a drink. OSHA recommends taking a drink every 15 minutes. And though it might be tempting when the weather is slowing you down, avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks, which can dehydrate you even more.
In the same vein, you might eat a little lighter in the summer versus the winter. Eating a heavy meal and then returning to work in the heat can make you drowsy and uncomfortable, and since a nap usually isn’t an option, try choosing a salad over a burger at lunch.
2. Recognize signs of heat stress
Heat stress, which manifests as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, can be avoided if you know how to recognize the signs. Be aware, though, that it can sneak up on you even if you’re properly hydrating and taking breaks.
Heat exhaustion happens when the body is sweating excessively and losing too much water and salt. You might be dizzy with a fast heart rate and feel nauseated or very tired. If you feel these symptoms beginning, you should immediately rest, drink water or take a cool shower.
Heat stroke, on the other hand, happens when your body is overheated and is unable to regulate its temperature. If there’s nowhere for excess heat to go, your body will store it. Don’t let your body fool you: When heat stroke hits, you may stop sweating altogether, and this isn’t a sign that you’re cooling down. Instead, this means you need to hydrate immediately.
Other heat stroke symptoms include feeling confused, throbbing headaches, seizures, hot, dry skin, vomiting or sweating. Heat stroke can lead to death or disability and should be taken very seriously. If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or anyone else, then it’s time to get immediate medical attention.
Heat stress training is a great topic for a toolbox talk (or two) this month. It’s easy information to cover with your team and can potentially save a life.
3. Adjust work schedules
On the hottest days, it might make the most sense to delay work until a cooler time of the day. In Phoenix, for example, it’s not uncommon for road work to take place at night — both to combat temperatures nearing 120 degrees Fahrenheit and to keep concrete from setting too quickly. You might choose to start work earlier in the morning before midday heat sets in.
If you do opt to perform work at night, especially road work, there are a few more dangers to protect against. Workers are less visible, even with bright lighting, and drivers are more likely to be tired (or in some cases, driving while impaired).
The Federal Highway Administration provides resources for deciding when night work should be conducted and how to do it safely.
4. Wear lighter clothing and sunscreen
Personal protective equipment (PPE) can be heavy and hot, so opt for lighter-colored, lightweight options. Contrary to popular belief, you may still want to wear long pants and long sleeves that offer sun protection. Choosing breathable, loose-fitting fabrics will keep you cool and keep your skin protected from UV rays. Be sure clothing isn’t too loose, or it could get caught in machinery.
This tip doesn’t just apply to construction; it’s summer safety 101: wear sunscreen! Too much sun exposure can mean painful sunburns and even skin cancer. Choose a sunscreen that’s sweat-resistant and reapply throughout the day. Even on cloudy days, it’s possible to get too much sun, so make it part of your daily routine.
5. Take breaks
The importance of regular breaks can’t be understated, especially for anyone who is not used to working in the heat.
While getting acclimated to the heat, you shouldn’t work as hard as you usually do at first. Instead, work up to your regular workload over the course of a few days. Rest often in a cool, shady place, and use that time to take a drink and reapply your sunscreen.
As they do for many common construction safety issues, OSHA conducts an ongoing campaign for heat safety. The Heat Illness Prevention Campaign kicked off in 2011 and can be summed up in three words: water, rest, shade. You can also download their Heat Safety Tool app, which looks at heat index (temperature + humidity) rather than just temperature. Whatever methods you use, it’s imperative for contractors and construction professionals to keep their teams safe and cool on the jobsite this summer.
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