Although it is still technically winter, summer will be here sooner than you think. Since we are experiencing unpredictable weather all across the country, discussing summer safety tips now is valuable because we may find ourselves in extreme heat in as little as the next couple of months. This is especially true since we are in the south. Day labor and skilled labor often require being outside. Extreme heat poses unique challenges to the safety of a construction crew. Heat stress is increasingly being linked to rapid onset fatigue, distraction, inattention to details and other deficiencies. It can also have much more serious consequences. Although there are practical challenges, the most important rule to remember is to stay hydrated. Let’s explore that rule and other tips to ensure your safety during summer heat:
- Hydrate – Drinking 8 glasses of water of a day is the best way to stay hydrated. However, water can be boring and tasteless. Beverages with electrolytes, like Gatorade, may be a tastier alternative. Even adding lemon to water will help add taste and electrolytes. In the old days, salt tablets were distributed but that practice has proven outdated as we typically eat enough salty foods to replace lost salt through perspiration. No matter how you drink your water, make sure that you are getting at least 8 glasses a day with the necessary electrolytes.
- Avoid Designer Beverages – Carbonated sodas and sugary drinks like Red bull offer minimal hydration. Ice tea is on the borderline as anything with caffeine is a diuretic and should be avoided. Be careful with lemonade and citrus beverages; it’s best to dilute them with water to balance out all that sugar. Also avoid cigarettes as they make respiration harder in high heat.
- Choose Your Lunches Carefully – Junk food is high in fat and preservatives and puts a high caloric load on your digestive system that will stress the body in high heat. Try eating a bigger breakfast so that you’re not so ravenous at lunch that you make poor decisions. Light lunches with lots of fruits and veggies are also highly encouraged. Try replacing those fries with a salad.
- Avoid the Afternoon Slump – our body’s internal clock that governs our sleep-wake cycle prepares most people for the day shift. However, it is natural to feel tired after a heavy lunch. You may even feel that you need a nap. Some countries even allow workers to go home during the lunch and nap to solve the afternoon slump. If you’re like the rest of us and do not have that option, try eating a lighter lunch to avoid the slump. Eating a heavy lunch is sure to make you drowsy and diminish your alertness.
- Reschedule Your Shift – In cases of extreme heat, consider rescheduling work for the cooler parts of the day. If possible, try scheduling your shift for when it is cooler usually early mornings or nights. If you know it will be a day of extreme heat, try to avoid working during the hottest part of the afternoon. Supervisors should watch closely for indicators of fatigue and schedule frequent breaks.
- Bring Shade – Try to work in shaded areas whenever possible. Use canopies or umbrellas or other shielding devices to avoid direct sun exposure even if only for intermittent protection. Employers should provide heavy duty sunblock for day laborers with sensitive skin. Employers should consider switching to wide-brim hard hats. Long sleeves, neck protectants, vented hard hats, cooling vests and bandanas could also be useful. Employers should consult with their safety hardware and uniform vendors to ensure workers stay cool.
Although it is winter now, summer will be here before you know it. As you know, it can get very hot in Texas! Working in extreme heat can be dangerous so it is important to stay cool and ensure protection against the sun. Temporary staffing agencies should also do everything they can on their end to ensure safety from extreme weather. However, our risk manager cannot cannot always be at the job sites. We encourage workers to keep an eye on one another and be on the alert for signs of heat exhaustion and take early steps to intervene if necessary. Heat related deaths happen but following these tips can help avoid them. As always with safety, err on the side of caution and make smart choices.
McKinley Sterling is a Jr. Digital Marketing Specialist with Results Staffing. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 2010 and has had several professional opportunities in the public relations, communications and digital media space. He is passionate about digital marketing and excited to bring his experience to this exciting new role with Results Staffing.