Extreme heat creates many risks in construction. It’s important to not only be aware of illnesses caused by the heat, but also be mindful of how high temperatures can cause physical and mental impairments that can lead to falls.
How Does Heat Impact Construction Workers?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that heat exposure increases the risk of workers experiencing a traumatic injury, such as a fall. This can be due to the following heat-related effects:
- Impaired thinking
- Dizziness and the reduced ability to maintain balance
- Slowed reaction time
- Muscle fatigue
- Slippery hands from sweat
- Reduced awareness of danger
Hot conditions can also lead to cloudy or foggy eyewear that can impact vision.
Tips to Prevent Heat Illness and Related Falls
There are several ways to reduce the risk of suffering a heat-related illness or impairment that could cause a fall. Strategies to consider include:
- Hydrate with water or electrolyte-rich beverages before and during a shift. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which can cause dehydration.
- Take breaks in the shade, removing outer protective gear to help cool off. Work and rest schedules should be adapted to the conditions, the individual’s characteristics, and the nature of the job (e.g., 15 minutes of shaded rest for every 45 minutes of work).
- Dress for the weather by wearing loose, light-colored clothing made of breathable fabrics that do not create a safety hazard around equipment.
- Slowly build up to more strenuous work over a seven- to 14-day period to acclimate to the hot conditions.
- Don’t overexert during periods of peak temperatures.
Be proactive and aware of the risks extreme heat presents to reduce the risks associated with extreme heat, including heat-related falls.