STAY COOL — AND SAFE — THIS SUMMER
As temperatures rise, chances are your workload will, too. Summer brings an influx of jobs to the construction industry, and that can mean long hours in the sun, heat and humidity for your team — and your equipment. Here are a few tips to keep both safe during the dog days of summer.
Know the signs of heat illness
Heat-related illness is real, and if it’s not treated quickly, it can result in severe complications or even death. Let your team know you take it seriously — you don’t want anyone acting “tough” and continuing to work through symptoms like:
- Excessive sweating, fatigue, thirst and cramps in the stomach, arms or legs. These are indications of heat cramps, the first stage of heat illness.
- Fatigue, disorientation, nausea, headache, rapid heart rate and moist, clammy skin. These are signs of heat exhaustion, which can quickly escalate if ignored or left untreated.
- Elevated body temperature, loss of consciousness, convulsions, vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms may indicate heat stroke, the most dangerous heat-related illness.
Keep a close eye on workers who are 65 or older, overweight or on medication — they may be more susceptible to heat problems than others.
Know what to do when you see it
Train your team to recognize the warning signs in themselves and others. Victims of heat exhaustion or heat stroke aren’t always aware of what’s happening to their bodies, so urge your workers to watch for anyone exhibiting symptoms, alert a supervisor and call 911 if necessary. It’s also a good idea to move any affected individuals to a shady or air-conditioned area, lay them down and elevate their feet, remove any tight or heavy clothing and give them water to drink. You can also help cool them down using a fan or a spray mist.
Know how to prevent it
The three most important ways to ward off heat problems on the construction site are water, rest and shade. Keep your jobsite well-stocked with water and encourage everyone to drink at least eight ounces an hour. Schedule plenty of breaks — extra on very hot days — and make them mandatory. And provide shade in the form of tents or awnings, especially if your site doesn’t have trees or buildings that offer natural relief from the sun.
Other steps you and your workers can take to stay safe in the summer heat include:
- Eating lighter meals (no heavy, greasy foods) during the hottest part of the day
- Wearing lightweight, light-colored, moisture-wicking clothes plus sunscreen and sunglasses
- Refraining from going in and out of the air-conditioning, which puts more strain on the body
- Paying attention to your body — if you feel dizzy or lightheaded, tell someone and find a cool spot to take a break
Your machines need attention, too
Keeping your workers safe in the heat and humidity is the top priority. But rising temperatures also cause machines to work harder, which stresses components and accelerates wear. Take these steps to protect your fleet:
- Before you buy, explore cooling package options and choose one that matches your application.
- Stay diligent with daily inspections — always check hydraulic fluid, engine oil and coolant levels along with radiator cap and seal pressure, hoses, air conditioning and tire pressure.
- Every day, clear debris from radiators, cooling systems and engine hood inlets/outlets.
- Encourage your operators to shift smoothly, accelerate steadily, turn gradually, travel at a controlled speed and avoid spinning the wheels.
- Keep a close eye on temperatures and pressures — telematics can be a great help in monitoring equipment status and planning repairs before failure.
- When you’re not using machines, store them out of the sun in a dry, sheltered area.
Staying safe in the heat is all about awareness, so schedule some time for a “summer safety” training session before the hottest days of the year strike. If your entire team puts these common-sense tips to work, you’ll be ready for a healthy, productive season on the job.