Summer Heat Can Cause Safety, Health Risks
The heat of summer poses additional health risks to workers in the construction industry, who often work outdoors or perform physically demanding tasks throughout the day.
The obvious risk is from heat-related illnesses, which range from a heat rash that is simply uncomfortable to a potentially fatal heat stroke. Workers’ safety can also be compromised as they handle equipment or tools with sweaty palms, or windows or safety goggles fog up in humid conditions, or through burns from contact with hot surfaces.
The National Weather Service reports that in an average year about 175 Americans die from the effects of summer heat. In the home building industry, environmental heat was the cause of 2% of deaths from 2003-2006, according to an NAHB study on residential construction industry fatalities. To see the full study, click here.
Some people are at an even higher risk of suffering health problems from extreme heat, including those who are 65 years of age or older, overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or are taking certain medications.
Workers and employers alike should know how to recognize and take appropriate action to treat heat-related illnesses.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides free information and resources to help employers and their workers prevent heat-related deaths and injuries.
OSHA’s “Protecting Workers From the Effects of Heat” fact sheet describes the causes and recommends treatment of some common heat-related illnesses, such as:
- Dry, hot skin with no sweating
- Mental confusion or irrational behavior
- Losing consciousness
- Seizures or convulsions
- Heat stroke is life-threatening — call 911 immediately.
- Place victim in shade, remove outer clothing.
- Douse victim in cool water and fan them.
- Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
- Mood changes such as giddiness
- Remove victim from hot environment.
- Provide fluid replacement.
- Apply ice packs.
It is important to remember that how individuals respond to hot temperatures will depend upon factors including age, weight, fitness and medical condition.
OSHA’s “Working Outdoors in Warm Climates” fact sheet offers heat protection tips. Employers should make sure their employees take precautions including:
- Drink small amounts of water frequently.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
- Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
- Eat smaller meals before work activity.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
- Work in the shade.
Other OSHA resources on the topic of heat include the “Protecting Yourself in the Sun” pocket card and the “Heat Stress Quick Card,” which can be ordered in a laminated version or downloaded as a PDF in English and Spanish for distribution to workers.
NAHB works with OSHA to provide the residential construction industry with information, guidance and access to training resources to help protect employees' health and safety.
Through BuilderBooks, NAHB offers a comprehensive set of resources geared towards helping companies improve the safety awareness and practices of their employees. To see all of NAHB’s safety resources available through BuilderBooks, go to: www.builderbooks.com/safety.
For more information on NAHB safety resources, e-mail Lindsay Cather or call her at 800-368-5242 x8163.
Protect Your Workers and Your Profits
Jobsite Safety Video, available through BuilderBooks.com, is the first-ever job-site safety video for home builders. The video provides an overview of the key safety issues residential builders and workers need to focus on to reduce accidents and injuries.
Based on the "NAHB-OSHA Jobsite Safety Handbook," this DVD is intended to be used as part of an essential residential construction safety-training program. It includes two 20-minute videos on one DVD.
To view or purchase this DVD online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.