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Published: August, 2010; Vol 7, Num 3

 

Avoid Summer Heat Stress

Heat is a serious hazard in construction. Protect employees.

Suggestions for Signatory Contractors:

  • Provide cool water to drink (five to seven ounces) every 15 minutes and all day.
  • Require rest breaks in a cool, shady spot and make fans available.
  • Assign the heaviest work during the coolest time of the day.
  • When possible, assign work that can be done in the shade.
  • For heavy work in hot areas, have employees take turns.
  • If employees work in protective clothing, have them take more rest breaks and check their temperature and heart rate.
  • If an employee has heat stroke, call 911. Move him/her to shade, wipe skin with cool water, loosen clothing and fan with cardboard or other material.

The LHSFNA offers handouts, health alerts and manuals pertaining to heat stress. They can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue.

Working outdoors during summer’s Dog Days is no picnic. The combination of scorching temperatures and oppressive humidity can be deadly. Every year in the U.S. alone, up to 1700 people die from heat exposure.

Heat stress ranges from simple discomfort to life threatening heat stroke. Laborers who work outdoors are vulnerable. Aside from environmental factors like temperature, humidity, air movement and radiant heat, the work regimen and, paradoxically, clothing worn for protection – hard hats, retro-reflective vests and pants, Tyvek suits and personal protective equipment (PPE) like respirators – can also contribute to heat-related health problems.

Importance of Sweat

The body sweats to stay cool. Sweating starts when body temperature climbs above 98.6 degrees. Sweating cools by evaporation, and evaporation happens best when air is dry, moving and able to absorb moisture. Humidity slows air down, making sweat less efficient and summer a prime time for heat stress and the illness it can cause.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting
  • Moist skin
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Upset stomach, vomiting

Heat stroke is indicated by:

  • Dry, hot skin with no sweating
  • Confusion, loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or convulsions

Heat can be a killer. Every Laborer and every LIUNA signatory contractor with an outdoor worksite must take summertime precautions.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]