While some parts of the country are still experiencing lower-than-normal temperatures, we’re not too far off from the warm summer months that represent the best working hours for construction companies. Temperatures are warmer, days are longer and other than the occasional rainstorm, you don’t have to fight with the weather to get the job done. While you’re making your summer project plans, what can you do to prepare your construction crew to work safely during the warm summer months?
Establish a Heat Stress Program
Whether you’re working in a state like Florida or Texas that experiences high temperatures throughout the year, or you’re in a northern locale that might only see warm weather for one or two months out of 12, it’s important to have a heat stress program in place. If you don’t have a heat stress program in place, you can expect a costly violation the next time OSHA stops by to inspect.
There is more to it than just offering cold water and shady spots to rest. You need to have policies in place to ensure that everyone is able to stay safe during hot weather, from allowing employees to wear loose-fitting summer clothing, to training team members to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and having a system in place to monitor the job site so management can make the call as to when temperatures are too high and things need to be shut down for a while.
Offer Plenty of Cold Water
When the weather is warm, water is the most important thing on your job site. Employees need to have constant access to cold water to stay hydrated and help them regulate their body temperature. You’ve got two options here — offer filtered water on-site that all crew members can access, or provide bottled water that’s been kept cold in a fridge or cooler.
The choice is up to you. Try to avoid sugar-based drinks that could contribute to dehydration like sodas. Sports drinks can help employees replace salts and electrolytes that they might lose through sweating but they should be used alongside water rather than as a water replacement.
Adjust Your Work Schedule
When it comes to sun exposure, the CDC recommends staying in the shade or avoiding outdoor activities during midday hours between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun is at its highest and the risk of heat-related illnesses is greater. Wherever possible, try to adjust your work schedule so you’re avoiding those midday hours. We know it’s not always possible to block out 6-8 hours during the day, but working from sunrise until 10 am, and then from 4 until sunset can help you meet your deadlines without putting your crew at risk.
If avoiding those hot hours in the middle of the day isn’t possible, consider making concessions so employees can work in the shade instead of in direct sunlight. Umbrellas, pop-up gazebos and other temporary shelters can make all the difference.
Stay Safe This Summer
Whether you’ve already got a full schedule or you’re still working on filling up your project lineup, make sure you’re taking the steps to keep your crew safe this summer. If you don’t already have a heat stress program in place, now is the time to start putting one together — before you really need it. OSHA is penalizing companies that don’t have such a program in place, even though in many parts of the country, there is still snow covering the ground.
Summer is often the most popular time for construction companies, so if you’re going to start working as soon as the weather starts to warm up, now is the time to start preparing.
This article was written by Emily Folk, a freelance writer covering topics in green technology and sustainability. You can follow her on her blog, Conservation Folks, or Twitter @EmilySFolk for her latest updates.