Due to the nature of work, construction workers have a much higher chance to be exposed to heat and high temperatures than those whose roles are primarily based indoors. As such, precautions need to be put in place. Whilst it is not feasible or fair for construction sites to completely shut down when temperatures rise, there must be adjustments to how the site and site workers operate.
Responsibility for understanding the risks and taking steps to mitigate or reduce these, falls to employers. Those who fail to do so, and are operating their site or asking their workers to work in unsafe conditions, will face severe penalties.
There are a number of risks to the health and safety of construction workers throughout the summer months. This includes:
Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion
Heatstroke and heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats and cannot cool itself down. These conditions can occur suddenly and without warning for many workers. The most common symptoms of heatstroke and exhaustion include dizziness, nausea, headache, sweating, and in more severe cases can lead to losing consciousness. It is recommended you drink plenty of water and move to a cooler environment to combat heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Moreover, overheating can lead to a lack of concentration, judgment and delayed reaction which further increases the risk of accident or injury.
Sweating profusely in hot temperatures, and not replenishing your fluids, can lead to workers suffering from dehydration. Due to the manual labour required working on a construction site, the likelihood of workers suffering from dehydration is high. Clean, fresh water is required to be provided for everyone working onsite.
Working outdoors, construction workers have long periods of time in which they are exposed to the sun and intense UV rays. This can lead to many workers becoming sunburnt, in which skin will become red, sore, warm and tender and in some cases will require medical attention. SPF should be worn on any exposed skin which is not covered by PPE.
To help keep your site safe this summer, we have drawn up some health and safety tips:
- When possible, work in areas where there is less sun exposure. If this is not possible, jobs should be swapped regularly amongst team members to reduce the amount of time one single person spends in strong sunlight.
- The sun is typically strongest between 10am-3pm, plan your day and activities around this to limit sun exposure, for example, if outside work is required, try and do this earlier or later in the day.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep yourself hydrated.
- Physical labour should be reduced where possible, and mechanised processes should be favoured.
- PPE is essential on construction sites but during the summer months, opt for more breathable lightweight safety wear.
- Regular breaks should be taken in a shaded, cool area.
- Working alone should be avoided in case of accident or injury, such as heatstroke or heat exhaustion.
- Ensure all site First Aiders are knowledgeable for dealing with heat related issues and are equipped to deal with heat related injuries or illnesses.
Providing suitable welfare facilities for your site is essential throughout the warmer months. GAP has a range of Welfare Units available that can provide shelter for workers to take shade from the sun and have regular breaks to cool down.
Take a look at our full range of Welfare Solutions to see which option would suit your site requirements this summer.