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Keeping Employees Safe in Extreme Heat

By July 19, 2019November 27th, 2023No Comments

Driving to work this week cranking the AC, I was thinking about the sweltering heat that we are all experiencing in the Northeast. I complained to myself about being a little warm getting in the car, running out of the office for an appointment or to even grab lunch quick. Being outside for just a few minutes is not enjoyable this time of year, especially while wearing a shirt and tie. Then, I thought about all of our clients working in the field, wearing protective clothing and equipment and doing so for eight or more hours straight with maybe a short break here and there in the shade if they are lucky. I thought, “Wow, how do these guys and gals do this all summer? I considered some of the health risks that come along with the high temperatures and humidity. We have clients who suffer losses each year at this time from heat exhaustion, stroke or just general fatigue leading to increased frequency in injuries to field employees.

With temps to be above 100 this weekend, I wanted to post great tips from IRMI to best protect your most valuable assets this time of year.

Heat-related illness poses an increased risk on many construction projects. As temperatures and humidity levels rise, contractors must take extra precautions to protect workers against illnesses caused by dangerously high body temperatures, including heatstroke. Some common-sense precautions include the following.

  • Make water readily available and require workers to drink regularly even if they don’t feel thirsty.
  • Provide shaded rest breaks (frequency determined by the heat index).
  • Encourage workers to use sunscreen.
  • Allow workers to acclimate by limiting their direct sun exposure and building up their tolerance over several days.
  • Train workers on how to spot signs of overexposure in themselves and in coworkers and on how to respond.
  • To the extent possible, shift work schedules to allow more work to be done during cooler hours, and avoid scheduling the most strenuous activities during the hottest time of the day.

Find links to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s detailed recommendations for preventing heat-related illnesses and Heat Safety Tool mobile app on the IRMI Construction Risk Management Dashboard.

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