Are you protecting yourself when working in this hot weather?
Construction work is very physical at the best of times, but this kind of labour provides even more of a challenge during the warmer months of the year.
While we may not get the best weather in the UK during the summertime, it’s always best to be prepared for those occasional days where the heat is beaming.
To keep you prepared for sunnier days, we’ve listed some of the things that workers can do to keep themselves safe in the sun and how to spot the warning signs.
Before we look at some of the ways to protect yourself, it’s important that we take a look at some of the risks that come with construction work in the heat.
Spending extended periods of time working in the sun can leave you vulnerable to multiple hazards, including heavy sunburn, dehydration and heat stroke.
Long term exposure can even lead to skin cancer in some cases, so protection is definitely needed.
In an industry where the majority of work is completed outside, the sun’s beaming rays can prove to do more harm than good. You might brush it off as simply a bit of sunshine, but you can never be too careful when it comes to the heat.
Heat exhaustion, second degree burns and permanent eye damage are all potential risks that workers subject themselves to, and can leave victims hospitalised if they are not careful.
Let’s move on and look at some of the things to follow to protect yourself on-site.
As a general rule – whenever the sun is out, a water bottle is your best friend.
Water can be a life saver on a sunny day, and keeping hydrated is absolutely essential. Make sure that you consume lots of water throughout the day, preferably not going any longer than 20 minutes without taking a sip on the hottest days.
Exposure to heat will cause your body to sweat, and the hotter it is – the more you sweat. Sweating is actually a good sign as it means your body is working as it should, but that also means you’ll need to replace these fluids pretty quickly.
Consuming water regularly is one of the best ways to counter the effects of heat exhaustion, and will allow you to keep working at a regular pace.
Whilst drinking lots of water is recommend, drinking other kinds of liquids isn’t necessarily a good idea.
Everyone loves a cup of coffee in the morning, but caffeine is actually a really bad idea when preparing for a hot, physical day. While initially giving you a boost of energy, caffeine will only leave you feeling dehydrated, which is something we definitely want to avoid.
The same can be said for the likes of energy drinks and other caffeinated products too, so just stay away from fizzy drinks until later in the evening.
We’re all guilty of having one too many at a beer garden on a sunny afternoon after work, but drink responsibly as alcohol is also very dehydrating, and you’ll feel the after effects much worse when trying to work in the heat the next day.
Your apparel is something that needs to be taken into consideration when working out in the heat, and can make all the difference as far as protection is concerned.
Where possible, try and wear looser fitting clothes that have some breathing room, staying away from darker colours that will only attract the heat. Hats and sunglasses are also great forms of protection against the sun, but you’ll be likely wearing a hard hat anyway.
A lot of people tend to forget how damaging the sun can be for your eyes, so eye protection is highly recommend when working on-site.
It might sound like common sense, but if you know that it’s going to be a hot day then you need to apply a good amount of suncream beforehand. You can get burnt even if doesn’t feel that warm, as the wind will often make it feel cooler than it is and increase the chance of getting burned.
It should also be noted that the hottest period of the day seems to be midday from 11am to 3pm, so be extra careful during these times.
Take it easy
We understand that projects can’t just come to a stand still whenever the weather gets warm, but it’s still important to consider spacing out the workload and rotating members of staff where possible.
It might slow things down slightly, but regular breaks will prove very beneficial to the well-being of anyone working on-site. No one should be working themselves to the point of exhaustion.
If the site you are working on has room or accessibility for industrial fans, make use of them as they are fantastic for keeping the temperature at an acceptable level.
When taking a break for lunch, we suggest avoiding heavy foods or protein rich meals and opt for smaller meals and snacks. Your body creates more metabolic heat if it’s trying to break down heavy foods, which is something you definitely do not need when trying to keep cool.
Look out for the signs
There are always risks that come with spending extended periods of time doing physical activities in the sun, and heat exhaustion and heat stroke can happen if you’re not looking out for yourself.
It’s important to know how to spot the signs not just for yourself, but for other members of the team as well. Being able to identify when someone is experiencing these symptoms could be really helpful to getting them help sooner.
The signs for someone that is suffering from heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, dizziness, muscle cramps and severe headaches.
If someone has gone further than this and are going through heat stroke, they will show symptoms such as a lack of sweating, vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing and even mental confusion.
If you notice anyone on-site that shows any of these warning signs, get them into the shade as soon as possible and use fans and cooler packs to try and get their body heat down. If the situation does not get any better, seek medical help.
It might sound a bit extreme considering it feels like we only get sun once or twice a year, but you can never be too careful when it comes to on-site health and safety.
If you’re working in conditions that could cause confusion or exhaustion, working without knowing where important underground utilities are located could prove to be fatal.
All it takes is one strike to a buried utility and it could mean life threatening injuries for anyone nearby.
By using a company like ourselves to obtain up-to-date plans that accurately detail the locations of any buried utilities, you can eliminate the risk of burst pipes or electrical fires and keep your employees safer than ever.
For the most cost effective and accurate utility plans, use Cornerstone Projects.