The days are getting hotter and higher temperatures can mean heat-related illnesses on the construction site. Construction workers are at high risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke thanks to the strenuous nature of the job and prolonged exposure to the heat. Here are some important tips to help you beat the heat this summer.
1. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water and avoid pop and energy drinks. You should be drinking fluids every 15-20 minutes; coconut water and sport drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade are great for restoring electrolytes like sodium and potassium, necessary because they carry glucose and other nutrients to cells. When electrolyte levels get too low, people can experience cramps and dizziness.
2. Dress properly
Wear light colored, loose fitted clothing. A natural fiber such as cotton is a good choice or moisture wicking clothing is even better. Moisture wicking clothing helps to draw sweat off your body and allows you to cool down quicker.
3. Put on plenty of sunscreen
Sunburn can occur even on the cloudiest of days. When you work outside, make sure to wear a sweatproof or waterproof sunscreen that can stay on for extended periods of time. It’s also a good idea to wear a hat with a wide brim, nape protection and wrap around sun visors. This will provide you with the maximum amount of protection.
4. Find shade
Take breaks in shaded areas and whenever possible, plan jobs to avoid direct sunlight. If possible, schedule work for the morning hours when it is cooler.
5. Eat for the heat
Avoid high fat foods such as french fries and hamburgers. Eating light, nutritious meals is a better choice. Eating small snacks throughout the day helps to maintain high energy levels and make sure to include foods such as bananas, almonds, apricots and avocados which are high in potassium.
6. Pay attention to the heat index
On a busy job site, it’s easy to lose sight of climbing temperatures. The heat index combines air temperature and humidity to determine an apparent temperature a.k.a what it actually feels like outside. If the humidity is high, the body loses the ability to cool itself and low humidity increases sweat evaporation which can lead to dehydration.
Don’t be afraid to admit the heat is too much to handle! If you feel like you need to take five, find a cool area and go for a short break. Overexerting yourself and not being aware of your body’s signals can quickly lead to heat exhaustion or worse, heatstroke.
8. Know the signs
Heat stress, heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke can all occur on a construction site. Symptoms can occur quickly so pay attention if you experience any of the following: nausea and vomiting, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, hot flushed skin, rapid or slow heart rate, decreased sweating, muscle aches or cramps and shortness of breath. If the symptoms are not alleviated by moving to a shady or air-conditioned area and administering fluids, seek medical assistance.