The Best Summer Safety Tips for a Construction Crew
Summer is the most dangerous season for construction workers. Other months have their own challenges, but nothing compares to working outside in the blistering heat. Along with the standard hazards in construction, the higher potential for dehydration and heat exhaustion put workers at an even greater risk of injury and death.
Project supervisors and construction crew leaders must implement these seven management strategies to keep employees safe during summer’s difficult working conditions.
1. Avoid Direct Sunlight When Possible
The simplest way to beat the heat is to avoid direct sunlight exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are the most intense. This rule is much easier to follow with the help of work tents and shade canopies. Project managers should scatter them around the site so employees can get as much relief as possible.
Staying out of the sun will help the crew avoid sunburn and overheating, allowing them to remain on task and keep the project on schedule. Their stamina and productivity will be much more consistent throughout the day. In the long run, this strategy will also help workers prevent wrinkles and reduce the risk of skin cancer.
2. Dress Appropriately for the Heat
Construction workers aren’t known for their fashion sense, so the crew leader must ensure everyone is dressed appropriately for the summer heat. Lightweight, breathable clothes will keep them comfortable and avoid heat exhaustion. Cotton, wool and polyester are the most effective moisture-wicking fabrics for when things get sweaty.
Clothes should also be light in color. Dark colors like black and navy blue absorb heat from the sun, while lighter shades reflect the heat. According to a 2020 study, the best hues to wear in hot weather are white, gray, red and yellow.
Coverings for the head and eyes are nonnegotiable. Construction workers already wear helmets and eye protection for most tasks, but they aren’t very effective at keeping them cool. Hardhat sweatbands are fantastic accessories for the summer season. Employees should also swap their clear-lens safety glasses for protective sunglasses whenever possible.
3. Provide Plenty of Water
Telling employees to stay hydrated isn’t an effective safety strategy. Project supervisors must enforce a strict hydration policy for their day workers during the summer. Encourage them to bring at least 2 liters to work and provide them with plenty of extra bottles. Remind them to slowly sip their water instead of gulping it down to get the maximum amount of hydration.
For safety reasons, it’s also important to ensure employees don’t share drinking containers. The COVID-19 pandemic has died down recently, but it’s still important to be cautious about transmitting diseases. Outbreaks can bring construction projects to a screeching halt.
4. Pay Close Attention to Heavy Equipment Jobs
Summer heat affects the entire crew, but heavy equipment operators can be among the most vulnerable. Although their work may seem less physically involved than other roles, they must maintain stamina and focus for long periods in technical high-stress conditions. As a result, they might face a greater risk of dehydration and fatigue, depending on the project.
Most newer models of heavy equipment have closed cabs with air conditioning to keep the operator comfortable. However, operators may tire quickly if their company uses open-cab models or older machinery with no A/C. Heavy equipment is built to last 10,000 or more hours with proper maintenance, so many older models are still in circulation. On top of being exposed to the warm weather, the heat radiating from the machine’s engines and other components can contribute to heat exhaustion even further.
Along with their personal health, a major concern with heat-related fatigue for operators is the additional risk to other craft professionals and the worksite. Improperly operated equipment can have serious consequences. It’s crucial that project supervisors closely monitor these workers during the summer to prevent equipment accidents.
5. Stay In or Stay Out
Employees should not constantly wander between indoor and outdoor environments during the summer. It’s better to stay inside or outside. There is a significant temperature difference between a 90-degree day outdoors and a 68-degree air-conditioned building. Workers who move in and out of buildings put a greater strain on their bodies.
Workers who subject themselves to sudden temperature changes become more vulnerable to infection and expend more precious energy. Construction crew managers must watch out for this bad habit to avoid disease and fatigue. Enforce a simple rule — stay in or stay out. Don’t let people bounce back and forth too often.
6. Promote Healthy Lifestyle Habits
Employees must have healthy lifestyles outside the workplace to stay safe during the summer. People who don’t care for themselves will become more susceptible to heat exhaustion. Crew leaders must encourage them to eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of sleep so they’re ready to tackle the summer heat.
Construction companies can help workers beat the heat and maintain healthy habits by providing nutritious snacks. Oranges, watermelons and strawberries are amazing water-rich foods that will help keep everyone hydrated.
Education is another important aspect of encouraging healthy habits. Take time to explain the dangers and warning signs of heat-related health problems. New hires should undergo mandatory training for dealing with harsh weather conditions. Send out frequent reminders about drinking, eating and sleeping to beat the heat.
7. Have a Generous Break Policy
Although frequent breaks can slow down a construction project’s progress, they’re still necessary for employees’ health. Construction companies located in hot climates might require a generous break policy. The CDC has a helpful heat stress break schedule that businesses can use to determine how often their workers should rest.
The CDC’s schedule recommends a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of heavy work once the temperature reaches 95 degrees. These periods become more frequent as the temperature increases. However, supervisors should monitor their employees long before the thermometer reaches 95.
Stay Safe to Beat the Heat
Some construction workers might be willing to fight through the summer heat, but they shouldn’t have to. Companies must institute practical measures to protect employees from dehydration and heat exhaustion. This will help prevent injuries and illnesses that could put people out of commission and affect morale. Taking precautions will also keep projects on track and ensure they’re completed on time.
These seven precautionary strategies are great additions to any business’s safety policy. Management should consider implementing them before the worst of the summer heat takes effect.