The warmer weather and longer days mean that summer is around the corner — arguably the busiest construction season of the year. It’s an industry that’s already inherently dangerous, and that risk is raised exponentially when there’s exposure to heat and sunlight involved. It’s a time when contractors and subcontractors need to create an extra set of best summer construction safety practices to insulate their crew from danger.
Why Is Summer Dangerous?
Heat-related illnesses, such as sunburn and dehydration, are of major concern for employees working outdoors in the summer. These aren’t conditions that will immediately sideline workers, but they will lead to a loss of employee productivity and a decline in morale. They can lead to fatigue that could cause human error and pose a safety risk, and lack of hydration can cause heat exhaustion. Symptoms include excessive sweating, nausea, dizziness, clammy skin, and headaches. Without treatment, heat exhaustion will set in when the body’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees, and can eventually lead to death.
Mitigating Summer Construction Safety Risks
The reputation of your business hinges on your team’s final product, and when your employees are absent because of working conditions or illness, that reputation will suffer. A spotty safety record can raise insurance premiums or cost your organization in the form of workers’ compensation claims. Your employees are your best assets so make sure they know how much you value their hard work by doing what you can to keep them safe.
Keep Them Hydrated
As you’ve already read, dehydration can be a slippery slope. Provide plenty of water to workers throughout the day, and make sure it’s cold water that helps to regular body temperature. In fact, OSHA guidelines say that water must be provided when the outside temperature reaches 103 or higher. On top of accessibility to water, additional water breaks should be accounted for in the scheduling. Where possible (and safe) allow workers to carry around their own supply of water to have it in reach.
Plan for Contingencies
Although summer is the ideal season for construction, it can also present its fair share of extreme weather situations. Weather patterns can change in an instant, without notice, and keeping your work site safe means educating everyone on how to take shelter in an emergency. Hold emergency drills, keep everyone in the loop about impending weather, and establish a liaison to be in charge of communications if there happens to be a serious weather emergency.
The hottest hours of the day here in the St. Louis area are usually between 11 am and 2 pm on summer days. While nobody wants to get up at sunrise to work a construction job, it may be a way to make up for taking off during those hours. This is also a good window to schedule indoor meetings, extended lunch breaks, shift changes, or even virtual training. Use scheduling management software and the Critical Path Method to figure out the best schedule tweaks for your team.
Working construction takes plenty of physical stamina, but even the strongest employees can feel a little slower in the summer heat. Stretching (under safe conditions) can give them the physical tools to take care of their bodies and prevent job-related injuries. Incorporate short bursts of easy, but effective exercises to make it fun for everyone and connect the importance of what they’re doing to job performance.
Work with Professionals
Whether you’re a contractor, subcontractor, project manager, or stakeholder, you need to make sure that you’re partnering with a commercial construction team that is transparent about its safety policies. Don’t hesitate to ask about this during the vetting process if the information isn’t already available on the business’s website. Having the central goal of safety for everyone in mind adds one more layer of safety — especially during the busy and hot summer months.
Want peace of mind when it comes to the summer construction safety of your job sites? Let’s work together. We recognize our responsibilities and are committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment. Our continued success relies heavily on the participation and cooperation of all employees toward an effective safety program.
We know firsthand about the importance of maintaining a productive safety program through Designated Safety Person, Safety Committee, Hazard Elimination, Back-to-Work programs, Accident and Near-Miss Investigation, and compliance with applicable OSHA regulations.