As summers continue to get hotter and hotter, the seasonal spike in heat-related deaths for workers will only get worse. Though outdoor workers in a variety of industries are vulnerable to the intense heat and the negative health effects. OSHA reports that construction workers suffer more than 40% of these highly preventable deaths. Despite the ever-increasing temperatures each summer, there are methods for mitigating and even eliminating illness and death as a result of heat. All it takes is the right preparation and equipment.
When temperatures rise more than 10 degrees above the regional average, that heat is classified as “extreme.” Construction sites are active places with safety concerns around large equipment and where debris may come loose. It’s important that the workers and managers on a site are aware of heat-related risks. This starts by educating everyone exposed to the heat about the signs and symptoms of dangerous heat illnesses like heat stroke. Workers should be encouraged to report their own symptoms and their fellow workers’ symptoms without fear of reprisal or skepticism. These concerns should be taken seriously, as heat-related death can be a rapid process and the construction industry alone accounts for 50% of them annually.
After education, workers should be acclimatized to the new heat over a week to two weeks with close supervision. The majority of heat deaths occur within the first few days of a new job, when workers aren’t settled into the routine of a higher temperature. More than one third of heat-related deaths happen on the very first day. Through this acclimatization period and for the duration of the job, workers should be drinking at least three cups of water per hour, with electrolyte-packed sports drinks mixed in when the sweat begins to pour. Especially in drier regions, a worker can lose water rapidly without even realizing, making mobile cooling solutions a necessity. Evaporative cooling units are particularly powerful at regulating water loss and act like outdoor AC, reducing heat stress. They can be an integral part of managing temperature outdoors.
Before workers even arrive on day one, there are many steps that should be taken. Managers should have designated spots that are shaded and equipped with personal cooling measures like misters and damp towels for resting, and workers shouldn’t be hesitant to use them. Evaporative cooling service is especially useful for workers in non-breathable or necessary protective clothing. Develop a working climate to combat the natural one. A prevailing attitude is that breaks aren’t a sign of laziness, but rather a precaution. On the contrary, high-temperature work without support by outdoor fans or evaporative fans suffers, with idle time increasing 1.3% per 1.0° F. Further, equip workers with clothing that combats the heat like hats with shade, wet garments or towels, heat-reflective aprons or vests, and an outdoor swamp cooler. Finally, develop a rotation for workers that avoids prolonged exposure to the sun. These don’t have to last half an hour at a time, but should help workers regulate their body temperature at safe levels.
Those in the construction industry not only have a duty to their workers’ safety, but an interest in maintaining productivity despite the heat. Studies have found that productivity suffers in high heats, finding that work performance decreased by 1.1% for every 1.0° F over 78° F. Hot summer days can see drops in performance of up to 30%. That means regulating heat in the summer can make a big difference in staying on schedule and coming in under budget.
One method for keeping temperatures healthy is Breezer Mobile Cooling’s Power Breezer, which can shave nearly 30 degrees Fahrenheit off an area that is 3,000 square feet. Mobile, quiet, and safe, the Power Breezer has been designed and manufactured for outdoor cooling that, unlike swamp coolers, keeps people cool without getting them wet. With an eighty gallon water tank built into the unit, the Power Breezer can go five days without needing a refill or hose attachment. It’s a durable and reliable air conditioner alternative that keeps workers safe. There are dozens of preventable deaths each year that, with the right education, planning, and outdoor AC unit like the Power Breezer, can almost certainly be eliminated.
To learn more about the Power Breezer and how to keep your worksite cool, just visit: http://powerbreezer.com/industrial-commercial/