Safety & Environment

Beat the Heat: Essential Gear for Construction Work this Summer

Flatiron Engineer on a job site in an orange hat and vest drinking waterWith the dog days of summer upon us, staying cool is a must. Construction workers are at an increased risk of suffering from dehydration or succumbing to a heat-related illness in extreme conditions. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, on average 658 people die annually from heat-related illnesses on the job.

At Flatiron Construction, our number one core value is safety, – that’s why we’ve put together a list of the essential items to keep yourself and your crew safe when temperatures rise.

Water. With dehydration comes fatigue, distraction and inattention to detail which can lead to accidents. Whether your hydration comes in the form of disposable cups at a water station or a personal water bottle, drink 5 to 7 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes to ensure proper hydration says EHS Today, a top resource for safety and health news for professionals in the manufacturing, construction and service sectors. And don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking – U.S. Army research says thirst actually occurs later in the dehydration process.

Sunscreen. Workers who are outside all day often make the mistake of only applying sunscreen in the morning. Remember to reapply regularly. Even if the product says “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” ultimately sweat, clothing and normal everyday interactions are likely to rub it off over time. Some sunscreens can also have a cooling effect on the skin resulting from UV rays being blocked.

Flatiron Engineers on a job site restingRest. Taking short breaks from the sun to hydrate, seeking shade and resting can help avoid heat-related illness. If you don’t have an air-conditioned hideaway, such as a nearby office, rest in the shade out of direct sunlight. EHS Today reports that areas in California are already seeing temperatures reach triple digits. Employees, especially in the construction industry, need to protect themselves.

Attire. Wear loose-fitting and lightweight clothing. Light-colored clothing helps reflect heat as opposed to darker fabrics that absorb heat. Wearing long sleeves and pants helps absorb sweat and reduce your overall temperature. You can also try a cooling vest underneath your safety vest, which is used to maintain a body temperature of 65 degrees and lasts two to three hours.

Flatiron Engineer on a job site taking a break under an umbrellaShades. In addition to protecting your body this summer you’ll need to protect your eyes, which can also suffer from sunburn. Properly tinted safety glasses will keep you covered from dawn until dusk. These days there is a wide selection of protective (and pretty stylish!) eyewear to choose from. And don’t forget to cover your face and neck from the sun’s harsh rays. Products such as neck shades, sweatbands, hard hat liners, sun shields and cooling pads are available and specifically designed to wear under hardhats.

Knowledge. In recent years, excessive heat has caused more deaths than all other weather events, including floods, according to the American Red Cross.  To keep yourself and your crew safe you must be able to recognize the symptoms of a heat-related illness — weakness, nausea, fainting and muscle cramping — and know what to do. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two very different things, so be sure to review the warning signs.

Make an effort to pause and review the summer heat safety with your crew often, especially on days with an above average heat index.

Now you’re ready to beat the heat! If you’re curious on more ways to beat the heat this summer, be sure to visit our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter. We’ll share tips and would love to hear some of yours for staying cool and staying safe.

And don’t forget to take a look at the infographic below!

The Heat is On: 7 Steps Construction Workers Can Take to Beat the Heat
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