With the days getting longer and the temperature increasing, summer is on its way. Although it is a perfect time to get construction projects completed, it can also bring several challenges that you will need to consider. Most importantly, as a construction worker you need to keep yourself safe as well as understand why you need to, throughout the hot season.
DANGERS OF WORKING IN CONSTRUCTION IN THE HEAT
Working in construction during the summer comes with risks, the two most significant including heat stroke and heat exhaustion. It is important to recognize the signs of these two dangerous conditions, as they can have severe health consequences.
What is heat stroke?
When your body is exposed to extremely high temperatures to the point that your body’s natural temperature regulating mechanisms fail and you receive a fever or loss of consciousness, you have heatstroke. In simple terms, heatstroke means your body is so overheated that it cannot cool itself down like it normally would.
Symptoms to watch out for:
- A core temperature of 40 or more degrees Celsius
- Vomiting and nausea
- Red skin
- Confusion, agitation, slurred speech and delirium
- Rapid heart rate
If you come across these symptoms, it is vital you get onto it immediately. If left untreated, it could damage your brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles, sometimes in severe cases even leading to death.
What is heat exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion is a milder version of heatstroke. It is caused by the same issue where your body becomes overheated to the point where it cannot figure out how to cool itself down. Although the risk is lower and the symptoms not so severe, heat exhaustion can turn into heat stroke if it is overlooked and left untreated.
Symptoms to watch out for:
- Low-blood pressure
- Fainting, dizziness, and fatigue
- Muscle Cramps
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Intense sweating
- Cool skin with goosebumps
PRACTICAL TIPS TO KEEP HEALTHY THIS SUMMER
Now we have an increased understanding of the risks involved with working in construction during summer, what are some practical ways you can implement so that you can keep safe and healthy?
One of the most vital ways to protect yourself from heat illness this summer is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water helps to keep your body from becoming dehydrated and overheating. If possible, keep it within reaching distance or as close as possible and take frequent hydration breaks. You should be drinking water at least every 15 to 20 minutes. The more you drink, the healthier you will stay.
Be mindful of what you drink, as water gives maximum hydration. Avoid beverages such as coffee, sodas and alcohol as these contain diuretics which could cause you to become dehydrated. If you notice increased thirst, dry mouth, swollen tongue, weakness, inability to sweat, dizziness, and decrease urine output, take a break immediately and rehydrate.
Your body can deal with the stress of hot temperatures a lot better when you are in good physical shape. With extra body fat and underlying health problems, your body is more likely to become overheated and/or damaged than a healthier person. Visit the gym more, cut down on the tobacco and alcohol, and try and improve your overall health one way or another.
You may have heard the phrase ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, and this certainly is true. Having a large, nutritious breakfast will ensure your body has enough fuel by the time you reach your next food break. Choose light food that will keep you from feeling hungry but won’t weigh you down. Having heavy, greasy, and high-fat food will not be a good combination with extreme temperatures and will only leave you feeling bloated and potentially nauseous. Instead of a burger and fries, maybe have a sandwich and fruit.
Get enough sleep
Pay attention to how much sleep you are getting, as it not only important for your overall health, but also for your concentration, memory, coordination, especially when operating machinery. If the heat hinders your sleep, use fans to keep your room cooler so you can improve the quality of your sleeps.
Rest your body and recover from the heat by taking frequent breaks in the shade throughout the day. This will help your body to not reach such high temperatures that it can’t cool down by itself again. By doing this, your body will be more equipped to deal with the heat.
Dress to protect
Because you are required to wear work approved clothing that keep you safe in hot environments when working in construction, you will want to choose lightweight safety apparel. These will help prevent heat from becoming trapped next to your skin and will provide more breathability. If you get a choice, try to choose natural fibre clothing such as cotton because its breathable and absorbs moisture well, or moisture-wicking clothing as it allows your body to cool quickly and draws the sweat from the body.
Watch for heat illness symptoms
Understand the signs or symptoms of heat illness so that you can keep an eye out for yourself and your colleagues. If you or anyone does experience the symptoms, get into a shaded area and re-hydrate immediately. Don’t treat it lightly.
You only have one head so look after it
It is important to keep your head covered and out of direct sunlight throughout the summer months whilst working in construction as your head and neck play a huge role in your natural heat-regulating systems. For example, wear a hat to protect your head, and a bandana to protect your neck.
Sunscreen, sunscreen, and more sunscreen
Ensure you are applying sunscreen whenever you are working outdoors. Choose a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and/or avobenzone, and that is either sweat-proof or waterproof so that you don’t sweat it off. Don’t be fooled by the cloudy or overcast days, as the ultraviolet rays can still reach you and cause sunburn. Without sunscreen, your body could overheat very quickly therefore increasing the likelihood of heatstroke.
Look out for your colleagues
As a member of a construction team, it’s important that you not only looking out for yourself, but also for your team. Make sure you understand and watch out for the early signs of heatstroke as your colleague’s work, so that you can help them before it is too late.