The temperature is rising. Summer is coming, and in many parts of the country, it is already here. While there are very many who are ready to shrug off their winter coats as they look to the beach, construction workers ready themselves for the high season. The statistics for heat-related deaths in the US is absolutely staggering: 3,332 people perished from the heat between 2006-2010 (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr076.pdf). Construction workers are incredibly prone to the heat, as most of their work is done outside and the work is strenuous. Here are three tips to make sure your health is not jeopardized while you are on the job.
1. Know the Signs
Heat-related maladies are important to recognize. The two most common forms of heat-related illnesses are heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is the milder of the two and is often accompanied by dehydration, which exacerbates its symptoms. The malady is divided into two categories: water depletion and salt depletion. The signs of the disease are confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, cramps, pale skin, accelerated heart rate, and profuse sweating. Heat strokes are far more serious and can take lives when not cautioned for. Medically, a heat stroke is when your internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees, but on a construction site rarely has thermometers for people. This temperature is the point at which heat impacts the central nervous symptoms, and the symptoms include a throbbing headache, lack of sweating, dizziness, confusion, red and dry skin, muscle weakness, nausea, rapid breathing, and an accelerated heart rate. In more extreme cases, unconsciousness and seizures may occur. If you see the signs of heat exhaustion or a heat stroke, stop what you are doing immediately, hydrate, and go indoors, preferably to a room with air conditioning.
2. Play Defense
Legally, your employer is obligated to protect you from extreme heat. Heat illnesses are preventable. OSHA has developed guidelines for employers, and we would be happy to relay them to you. The employer should provide workers with rest, water, and shade, plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention, and monitor workers for signs of illness. Acclimatization is crucial and often underappreciated. Letting workers who are not habituated to the heat accustom themselves will help them considerably in the long run, and they should start off with the lighter tasks. This is recommended for workers who have taken time off, new workers, or temporary workers.
3. Help Yourself
While your employer has certain requirements, you owe it to yourself to know what to do. There are a few things that you can do for yourself in order to ensure your health. You ought to drink water every 15 minutes, even when you are not thirsty, and take breaks in the shade to cool down. While there are certain items you must wear, such as a helmet, you can sport light clothing and sunglasses. Keeping an eye on fellow workers and having them keep an eye on you not only establishes comradery, it lets you all ensure that you are working safely. Just to reiterate, understanding the signs of the illnesses and letting yourself acclimate to the heat is important.
Unfortunately, accidents happen. If you have an issue with your employer, call us right away. We are NJ Construction Accident experts and can get you the justice that you deserve. DeZao law is committed to you completely.