It is no surprise to anyone who works on construction sites, especially in the South, that it can get hot. “Between 1992 and 2016, 285 construction workers died from heat-related causes.” In Louisiana, summer temperatures can reach nearly 105 degrees with July being considered the hottest month of the year. For construction workers, these high temperatures can easily cause heat-related illnesses when coupled with the labor-intensive work they perform. Heat-related illnesses include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash, heatstroke, and fainting. Although underlying health conditions can affect a worker’s predisposition to a heat-related illness, there are different things a company can keep in mind to help protect its workers.
Heat cramps are the least severe of heat-related illnesses. Symptoms include muscle cramps, spasms, or pain. Treat workers by having them stop all activities and sit in a cool place. Drinking water or a clear juice and avoiding salt tablets will also help. Wait a few hours after the cramps subside before allowing the worker to re-engage in strenuous work. As a response to excessive dehydration and a loss of electrolytes, the body may suffer from heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion symptoms could be anything from a rapid heart rate to extreme weakness or fatigue to rapid, shallow breathing. Heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heatstroke and needs to be treated quickly. To effectively treat heat exhaustion, move the affected worker to a cool area and loosen their clothing. Hydrating by drinking water or other cool beverages will help; as well as allowing them to take a cool shower or bath if facilities are available. The CDC recommends calling 911 if the affected worker worsens or shows no improvements within 15 minutes. Heatstrokes are considered a medical emergency, and they can cause permanent disability or death. Symptoms include confusion, profuse sweating, loss of coordination, seizures, throbbing headache, high body temperature, or coma. If a worker on a site suffers from a heatstroke, dial 911 and move them to a cool, shaded area. Continue cooling the worker with cooling packs to their chest, armpits, and groin until the EMS arrives.
Having a cool place for workers to cool off is imperative to preserving their health and ability to work. Be sure to effectively educate construction site workers on what to look out for in regards to heat-related illnesses. For more information on how to keep your construction workers safe from heat-related illnesses, visit the CDC website listed below.
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