Heat Stress Management Tips
A critical topic in the construction industry is heat stress management. How do construction leaders protect not only their employees but their businesses by having a proper plan and procedures in place?
Throughout much of the U.S. especially the south, high temperatures and humidity last longer than just the summer months and can create hazardous working conditions. Extreme temperatures can get your construction company in hot water if you’re not careful. Here are four tips to protect both your workers and your business.
1. Get your plan in place
Create a specific plan identifying and addressing heat hazards that will keep you in compliance and provide a guide to better protect your workforce. Although OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) doesn’t have a specific regulation covering heat-related hazards, they would likely fall under the general duty clause if you fail to address them in your safety plan.
2. Train supervisors on hazard identification
It’s essential that field supervisors know how to identify heat-related hazards and how to implement best practices to protect workers. This includes identifying those employees capable of safely handling certain tasks during high-heat periods and those who may be at high risk of heat illness. New workers are most at risk to heat hazards, monitor these new or temporary employees and offer extra protection until they are fully acclimated.
3. Train workers on how to keep their cool
Workers need to be trained in ways they can minimize heat risks. This includes staying hydrated throughout the workday, recommendations on cooler clothing, and tips on the types of food and beverages to avoid. Employers should encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes and take frequent rest breaks in shaded or air conditioned areas. Symptoms can arise quickly so it’s important to train employee’s so they monitor themselves and their coworkers, notify a supervisor when necessary and take the appropriate steps if they feel they or a coworker is becoming ill.
4. Provide necessary protection
How you mitigate heat exposure will vary depending on the work site. Evaluate the combination of conditions and exposure to determine what is most likely to make workers as comfortable as possible and reduce the possibility of heat illness. Recognize that serious heat-related illnesses can occur when temperatures are not extreme. A good rule of thumb is that workers need additional protective measure whenever the heat index is 80°F or above.
One reason heat stress is so common is that it can sneak up on someone without him or her even knowing it. Heat exhaustion can cause workers to be less alert which can result in other construction-related injuries. With adequate planning, supervision and taking the above steps, most heat-related illnesses can be prevented or caught in time to treat and avoid serious injury or death.