Heat Stress on the Job
We all want our workers to be safe and know that everyone is returning home safely in the evening.
Being involved in construction, our crews face many dangers. There are electrical dangers, falling concerns if they work on shingle or metal roofs, power equipment hazards, and many other things that we face.
But what about a more subtle danger that we might not talk about much?
Heat stress is something we should be aware of, especially as we work in the summer and early fall. Hot and humid days can bring a danger to our crews that can take them unaware.
In this post we will look at what heat stress is, how a heat stroke and heat exhaustion are different, and most importantly, how to prevent heat stress completely.
What is heat stress?
In its simplest form, heat stress is anytime our bodies struggle to maintain a healthy body temperature due to extreme temperatures, humidity, or working conditions.
When our bodies work for long periods of time in high temperatures, or without proper fluid intake, our bodies can begin shutting down.
And the most serious part is that this can lead to serious injury, or death, if not properly treated.
So what are the most common causes of heat stress?
High temperature or humidity
Being on a hot roof
Direct sun exposure
Heavy physical labor
Low liquid intake
What is the difference between heat exhaustion and a heat stroke?
While both heat exhaustion and a heat stroke are serious, knowing the main differences between the two could save a life.
Heat exhaustion is simply your body becoming too warm and dehydrated, and the best way to treat it is finding a cooler surrounding (like shade or a cool shower) and drinking water or other electrolytes.
The main symptoms of heat exhaustion are feeling faint or dizzy, excessive sweating, wet clammy skin, and a rapid but weak pulse.
Heat stroke is your body beginning to shut down from excessive heat, and it can lead to serious injury or death if not treated promptly.
The main symptoms of heat stroke are a throbbing headache, no sweat, red dry skin, and a rapid but very strong pulse.
If you suspect someone of having a heat stroke, or if they show these symptoms, call 911 immediately!
Knowing the difference between these two, particularly the symptoms of a heat stroke, could save someone’s life!
What are best practices to avoid heat stress?
To avoid heat stress, the best thing to do is follow these 4 basic steps:
Drink plenty of liquids at regular intervals (about a liter of water every hour)
Take frequent breaks in shady areas if necessary
Work at a slower but steady pace during times of high heat or humidity
Establish a buddy system and never work alone for safety
These four steps are very basic, but if they are consistently followed, they can result in crews that are safer, more hydrated, and more efficient in the summer heat.
So whether you have men doing manual labor on the ground or working with no shade on a metal roof, make sure they are watching out for themselves and each other in the heat!