Dangers of heat for construction workers can be seen not only in outdoor sites, but also indoor workplaces such as iron and steel foundries, boiler rooms, bakeries and commercial kitchens. In the warm summer months, the need for extra caution from heat exhaustion and stroke merits some preparation to secure protection.
For outside work forces, paying attention to weather reports and adapting accordingly can be a big game-changer. On days when a forecast anticipates high temperatures and humidity, breathable clothing should be sought where feasible. Breaks should be embraced to ease exhaustion from physical exertion during hours of heavy sun exposure.
To be methodical about break timing, OSHA points out that the “Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) is the most accurate tool to measure heat hazards for outdoor workers. It takes temperature, humidity, wind speed, and radiant heat into account. The OSHA Technical Manual Heat Stress Chapter provides WBGT information and calculations, and the National Weather Service provides a prototype WBGT location tool and work/rest recommendations.”
An important component of remaining safe during extreme summer temps is for teams to be educated on the appearances and symptoms of heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is essentially a lesser version of heat stroke. Heat stroke is usually the product of untreated heat exhaustion and stems from the body heating to an internal temperature that puts organs in a position to be damaged.
Some warning signs of Heat Exhaustion include:
– Colorless, cooler, damp skin
– Intense perspiration
– Vertigo/extreme dizziness
– Body temperature higher than 100 degrees, however lower than 104
Watch-outs for Heat Stroke (important to act immediately):
– Red, heated, dry skin
– No further sweating from extreme dehydration of fluids
– Body temperature 105 degrees or higher
– Fainting, confusion, sudden mental deficiencies
– Very high or low blood pressure shifts
At the start of initial symptoms, it’s important to seek hydration and rest immediately. Sports drinks containing electrolytes are a good option at a cool temperature (not ice cold).
Heat is a danger more so than an annoyance. OSHA advises to plan for heat emergency situations and know how to react, as acting hastily can be a life saver—literally!