The sun is out, the weather’s warm — and in the world of concrete and construction work, heat-related illness poses a threat. At General Chipping, although our crew enjoys carrying out our concrete work in the great outdoors, we understand there are risks to consider. For crews everywhere, failing to take hot conditions into account can lead to life-threatening situations. Here, we’ve gathered together key information related to recognizing, treating and preventing heat-related illness.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) describes heat stroke as the most serious heat-related illness. Caused by the body’s inability to regulate its core temperature, common symptoms include confusion, fainting, seizures, excessive sweating and extremely high body temperature. If heat stroke is identified or suspected in a team member, call 9-1-1 immediately. In the meantime, move the team member out of the sun, loosen their clothing and cool their body with cold packs, cool water and ice. Provide them with fluids and wait with them for help to arrive.
Next on OSHA’s list of heat-related illnesses is heat exhaustion, which stems from loss of water and salt due to heavy sweating. In addition to sweating, symptoms can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst and a fast heartbeat. If a team member appears to be suffering from heat exhaustion, have them lie down in a cool, shaded area. Provide them with water to drink and cold compresses to cool them down. If symptoms worsen or do not improve within one hour, they should seek medical attention.
When the body experiences a loss of salts and fluid due to sweating, it can lead to heat cramps. OSHA links this painful issue to the loss of salts in muscles. If you witness a team member suffering from heat cramps, have them lie down in a cool and shaded area, and provide them with water to drink. They should sit out for a few hours before returning to any strenuous work. If the cramps do not go away, encourage the team member to seek medical attention.
The last heat-related illness laid out on OSHA’s list is heat rash. The aftermath of what happens when sweat does not evaporate from the skin, the best way to combat the rash is to ask the affected team member work in a cooler, less humid environment — and to try to keep the area dry.
They say the best defense is a good offense, and such is true when it comes to heat-related illness. OSHA offers three preventative measures aimed at helping keep outdoor workers safe:
Water: Make sure your team has access to enough drinking water while working.
Rest: Ensure team members are taking their scheduled breaks.
Shade: Designate a cool, covered area where team members can rest up.
As the summer season continues — and brings elevated temperatures with it — take steps to protect your workers on the job. We hope these tips make it easier for your crew to recognize, treat and, most importantly, prevent heat-related illness.