The Heat is On: Hot Weather Safety for Outdoor Crews

When the summer sun is out in full force but there’s still work to be done, hot weather safety becomes crucial. After all, for crews that work in the great outdoors, warm conditions can quickly escalate into life-threatening situations. For instance, as Industrial Safety & Hygiene News reported, although construction workers make up just 6% of the U.S. workforce, they accounted for 36% of heat-related deaths between 1992 and 2016.

The good news is, although such health and safety concerns do exist, there are ways to keep team members protected on the job. Read on for helpful tips you can put to good use through the summer season and beyond.

Ease Team Members In and Incorporate Breaks
A can-do attitude is a great thing on the job site, but it can spell trouble under certain conditions. Ensure team members are physically prepared to take on their outdoor work by helping them acclimatize to the conditions. As Construct Connect notes, starting a team member off at a 50% workload, then working up to 100% capacity over a week or so, can help them adjust to both the physical stress and outdoor conditions. Regular water breaks — a cup of water every 15 minutes or so, in a shaded area — can help, too.

Equip Crew Members with Seasonal Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Common sense comes into play when it comes to helping outdoor crew members stave off summertime concerns. Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses can all go a long way toward staying safe. Whenever possible, crew members should dress in loose-fitting, breathable clothing that helps keep them cool and protected against the sun’s damaging rays. Of course, depending on the day’s tasks, traditional PPE such as hard hats, protective eyewear and boots might be necessary. Although such items help protect against injury, it is important to note that they can contribute to heat stress risks. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers great information on the subject.

Educate Others About Warning Signs to Watch Out for
The idea that safety is everyone’s responsibility extends to heat-related illness. Encourage team members to understand the signs that a person might be in danger — and to know what actions to take. Dizziness, heightened temperature, nausea and confusion all point to heat stroke, for instance, and require an immediate call to 9-1-1. Meanwhile, heat cramps are a relatively minor concern often eased with a short break and a glass of water or sports drink. Consider covering heat-related illness in an upcoming toolbox talk to keep everyone on the same page. Both the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offer useful resources to guide you along the way.

Throughout the summer season — and all year long — please play it safe out there!