Risk Tip: Monitor Worker Heat Exposure
With the hottest months of the year upon us, heat-related illness poses an increased concern on construction projects. As temperatures and humidity levels rise, contractors must take extra precautions to protect workers against illnesses caused by dangerously high body temperatures, including heatstroke. Some common-sense precautions include the following.
- Make water readily available and require workers to drink regularly even if they don't feel thirsty.
- Provide shaded rest breaks (frequency determined by the heat index).
- Encourage workers to use sunscreen.
- Allow workers to acclimate by limiting their direct sun exposure and building up their tolerance over several days.
- Train workers on how to spot signs of overexposure in themselves and in coworkers and on how to respond.
- To the extent possible, shift work schedules to allow more work to be done during cooler hours, and avoid scheduling the most strenuous activities during the hottest time of day.
To support the effort to reduce heat-related illnesses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced the launch of its Heat Safety Tool mobile app that can help workers and supervisors monitor heat exposure. The app, available in English or Spanish, calculates a heat index for a work site and provides appropriate reminders for protecting against heat-related illnesses. Detailed recommendations for preventing heat-related illnesses at various risk levels (low, moderate, high, very high) can also be found on the OSHA website.