Construction activity spikes from May through September. It’s when a contractor’s work plate is full, particularly with new builds and home renovations. This activity coincides with the hottest months of the year around the country.
Construction workers who work in extreme heat are susceptible to heat-related illnesses (HRIs) and injuries. The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) defines heat stress “as the combination of a worker’s physical activity, environmental factors, and clothing that results in an increase in the body’s heat storage, known as the net heat load.” The physiological response to heat stress is heat strain, “which occurs when the body attempts to increase heat loss to the environment in order to maintain a stable body temperature,” says NIOSH. To function normally, core body temperature must be kept around 98.6°F. Heat stress can cause unrelieved heat strain, which increases the risk of HRIs. Heatstroke, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat cramps, and heat rash are all examples of HRIs.
Construction workers accounted for about one-third of occupational deaths from heat exposure over a 25-year period (1992-2016), according to the most recent figures from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI). The CFOI found that 285 deaths occurred among construction workers, who make up only 6% of the U.S. workforce. About 78% of these fatalities occurred during the summer months of June, July, and August.
Extra measures are therefore necessary as temperatures rise to help keep contractors cool on construction sites. Following are several safety tips, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), to help prevent heatstroke and heat exhaustion and keep your contractors safe.
For additional information on keeping construction workers safe during the hot summer months, visit OSHA.
Sources: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, NIOSH, CDC, OSHA