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Keeping Construction Workers safe in the Summer Heat

June 20, 2016

Dangerous-Job-000045581000_MediumI don’t know about you, but I’ve never envied roofers in the summer.  It’s hard work to begin with but add in the heat factor and it becomes extremely dangerous.  Best in class companies have adopted OSHA standards for protecting their workers.  OSHA’s campaign to “Prevent heat illness in outdoor workers” advocates Water. Rest. Shade. This campaign is a great way to ensure your workers not only stay safe but also, are far more effective and efficient during their workday.

What does “heat illness” look like?

The human body cools itself by sweating.  During very hot weather especially when the humidity is high as well – sweating isn’t sufficient to cool down the body. When the core temperature rises to dangerous levels, illness can happen.  It can start with heat rash and cramps and elevate to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Heat stroke can be deadly and requires immediate attention

A few ounces (literally) of prevention:

As with any safety program, employers should have a complete Heat Illness Prevention program including guidelines, training, and “watch dogs” for their teams.

What should employers provide to workers at risk?  Remember:  Water. Rest. Shade.

  • Frequent Water Breaks and access to a continual supply of cool water. Encourage drinking water every 15 minutes to stay hydrated.
  • Frequent Rest Breaks. The heat and humidity are very draining – especially for those not used to it, or the elderly.  Taking timed and mandatory breaks help avoid illness.
  • Wear the right clothing. Loose fitting clothing that’s breathable, hats and sunglasses.
  • Access to shade. This can include a building, a tent, a lean to, or some big old maple trees – someplace to get out of the sun.
  • Acclimation – workers need to build up a tolerance for working in the heat. Be conscience of this and offer more breaks and shade to those who have been off for a week or more or for those new to the job.  These are your MOST vulnerable workers!
  • Watch Dogs – Know the symptoms of Heat Illness and monitor your team regularly. Have a watch dog at each site to ensure Water. Rest. Shade is happening.
  • Emergency plan. Heat illness WILL happen to someone on your team – have an emergency game plan in place.

Water. Rest. Shade.  OSHA’s mantra for avoiding heat related illnesses is one that should be shared amongst your team.  Let’s keep those roofers cool and safe this summer!


Nancy Swenson

Commercial Lines Account Manager

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