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July 12, 2023

Working In Extreme Heat: 8 Summer Safety Tips For Construction Workers

Working in the summer can be hard on construction sites.

What is heat stress? The government of Canada defines it as the net overall heat load a worker can experience, as per the temperature outside, their body heat, and the clothing they’re wearing.

As heat stress goes up, so does your risk of heat stroke. Even if you avoid this extreme outcome, you can feel the effects of working in extreme heat in the form of dehydration, headaches, or dangerous lapses in focus.

As a construction site project manager, you can quickly find yourself short-staffed as your workers feel the heat. Understanding the risks associated with working in extreme heat will help you establish summer precautions for workers you employ. Heat stress prevention is key!

So, what are our summer safety tips for construction workers? Keep reading for our top working in the heat guidelines to stay cool!

    1. Stay Hydrated

This is the most important tip for everyone to follow, regardless if they’re working under the sun or not. Excessive sweating is the most common cause of dehydration.

Women should drink 11.5 cups of water daily, and men should drink 15.5—both will likely need more if working summer construction jobs. Staying hydrated prevents heat stress or lowers the risk of getting a heat stroke. If it’s impossible to have water within easy-reaching distance, you should at least take frequent water breaks to combat the heat.

Avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and soft drinks as these can accelerate dehydration.

    2. Follow An Acclimation Schedule

The human body is wonderfully adaptive. Gradual, structural exposure to heat can better position our bodies to perform.

An acclimation schedule involves scaling up your heat exposure over a 7-14 day period. Typically, a worker should only spend 20% of their day working in the heat on the first day and scale up gradually—less than 20% per day—throughout the schedule.

As far as heat stress hazards and control measures go, being calculated in how you introduce your body to extreme heat is a great idea.

    3. Avoid Overworking Yourself

Slow down and work at a pace that feels right to you, as overexertion can add to the stress your body is already feeling. Know your limits!

It’s important for those working in extreme heat to be physically healthy. Excess body fat contributes to heat stress and can lead to that aforementioned excessive sweating.

 A carpenter working under direct sunlight.

    4. Wear Loose and Comfortable Clothing

You might be required to wear protective garments and equipment designed to keep you safe from risks and hazards. Unfortunately, this gear can be heavy and expedite some of the challenges you’ll experience working in extreme heat.

To balance this out, wear lightweight, light, or plain-coloured clothes under your protective gear. Loose-fitting clothes also prevent heat from becoming trapped underneath.

    5. Take Air-Conditioned Breaks

Taking plenty of breaks while working prevents your body from overheating. This also helps you recover from fatigue and reduces the risk of heat stroke.

You should look to take breaks in air-conditioned rooms if possible. Giving your body some time away from the heat is important. If air-conditioning is unavailable, at least seek out a shady spot away from the sun.

Be strategic when planning your breaks. If possible, do your more strenuous manual labour during the morning and late afternoon when the sun isn’t beating down on you and take breaks during the sun’s peak temperatures.

    6. Get Some Sleep

If you don’t get enough sleep, you increase your chances of developing disorders such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.

Sleep restores your body by generating new cells and improves the way your brain, heart, lungs, and metabolism performs. Adequate sleep also gives you the energy to work through extreme temperatures, giving you a physical and mental boost.

As we’ve discussed, the symptoms of working in the heat are no laughing matter. Take care of your body and it will take care of you!

A contractor layering bricks.

    7. Eat Balanced Meals

When you’re working on a construction project in the heat, you’re expending energy and burning calories faster than normal. Eating balanced meals throughout the day will keep you sharp and help your body withstand extreme temperatures.

Greasy meals will sit in your stomach like lead. They’ll slow you down and leave you feeling sluggish. Instead, eat balanced meals that include lean protein sources, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of fruits and/or vegetables.

    8. Watch For Signs of Heat Stroke

Heat stroke can hit fast and hard, with symptoms appearing within the course of a few minutes and developing slowly over several hours or days. An untreated heat stroke can damage the brain, heart, and other major organs.

Symptoms of a heat stroke can include:

  • Hot skin without sweating
  • Racing heart rate
  • Altered mental state, such as slurred speech, confusion, agitation, and seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid breathing
  • Headache

If you or one of your workers are experiencing one of these symptoms, make sure to rehydrate and call emergency services immediately. Of all these summer safety tips for construction workers, this one is non-negotiable!

Protect Yourself at Work With Contractors Insurance

Whether on-site or running a team, implementing these summer safety tips for construction workers will help when working in the heat.

However, safety tips and protocols for working in dangerous conditions can only protect you and your crew so much—you should also be covered by comprehensive insurance. The right plan will secure your finances in case of an accident and help pay for costly damages, medical bills, and legal claims arising from unforeseen incidents.

Contractors Insurance is a top insurance brokerage firm in Ontario that caters to workers in the skilled trades. Our experience has allowed us to customize our policies to meet the unique challenges and risks faced by this growing industry.

Contact us today and get started with a FREE quote!


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