Working in hot weather can be particularly uncomfortable for tradesman and construction workers. In extreme cases it can be a threat to your own health and that of your employees.
If you own a construction firm you are directly responsible for the safety and well-being of your workforce. Should a member of your team suffer illness or injury in extreme heat, they could hold you responsible and seek financial compensation in the form of employers’ liability claims under your Construction Insurance policy.
Awareness and Information
Working outdoors is an obvious hazard for any construction role and there is a general expectation that employees will need to work in hot conditions. However, firms must provide adequate support and training to assist workers and reduce the risk of ill-health.
Access to water, shaded break areas and general information and awareness training will help you manage and document your risk effectively.
The following tips may help you to develop heat awareness training for your workforce:
#1 Heat Exhaustion
Heat exhaustion and dehydration occurs when a person cannot sweat enough to cool the body – usually, this is a direct result of not drinking enough water or fluids during hot weather. It generally develops when a person is playing, working or exercising outside in extreme heat.
Symptoms which individuals, site managers and foreman should look out for include:
- Dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache and vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Body temperature rising to 38°C
- Sweaty skin
- Feeling hot and thirsty
- Difficulty speaking
Should you discover or suspect one of your workforce is suffering from heat exhaustion they should be moved immediately to a cool place and drink plenty of water to avoid escalating matters to an even more severe heat-related condition known as heat stroke.
#2 Heat Stroke
Heatstroke is effectively phase two of the dehydration process and the result of untreated heat exhaustion. Should employees continue to work despite suffering heat exhaustion, health can quickly deteriorate further.
Symptoms aligned to heat stroke include:
- Sweating stops
- Unawareness of thirst and heat
- Body temperature rising rapidly to above 38°C
- Confusion or delirium
- Possible loss of consciousness or seizure
Heatstroke is no laughing matter and should be treated as a serious medical emergency that must be treated quickly by a trained medical professional.
Until assistance arrives, you should cool the person down by placing ice on the neck, armpits and groin. Check to see if the person is conscious and able to swallow and, if possible, give them a small glass of water every 15 minutes until professional help arrives.
#3 How To Stay Cool
As you can see, the combination of heat and humidity on hot summer days can be a serious health hazard to your construction site workforce. By encouraging and assisting contractors and employees in staying cool, you can reduce the risk of accident or illness.
Drink plenty of water - In hot weather, drink enough water to quench your thirst. The average adult needs eight 235-ml glasses of water a day, but even more is required during hot weather. Ensure that your site provides access to water at all times aelise this could be sighted as a risk
Avoid caffeine and fizzy drinks - Water provides a much better source of hydration in hot conditions
Dress Appropriately - When working outside, contractors should wear lightweight clothing of natural fabric and a well-ventilated hat. Conversely – this should not be at the expense of safety, and additional vigilance is required in hard-hat areas during summer months.
Eat light Meals – while heat can often reduce appetite, the best advice is to replace heavy or hot meals with lighter, refreshing foods. Again, try to provide access to appropriate meals and foodstuffs on-site (or provide appropriate breaks from site) and encourage workers to eat smaller meals before work or intense activity.
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