Just because it's 98 degrees with a heat index of 112 degrees, doesn't mean your construction project deadlines will be forgiving. During the summer months, working outdoors can be brutal for your teams. Thousands of workers each year become affected by heat-related illnesses. Keep your crews operating at their best this summer with these five tips for beating the heat on the job.
Keep Them Hydrated
Staying hydrated is imperative when working outdoors in the summer months. Make sure your crews have ample supply of cold water to drink and encourage them to drink often. Sports drinks, coconut water, and certain fruits also contain electrolytes, which are essential for hydration. Remind your teams to take regular drink breaks, every ten to fifteen minutes, especially during the peak midday hours. Consider offering them popsicles as well to offer a refreshing treat throughout the day. Encourage them to take advantage of brief moments of breeze or take their drink breaks in the shade.
Ice Packs, Fans, and Hats
Consider investing in cooling towels, neck wraps and ice packs for your crews. In the event of mild heat exhaustion, these can be ideal for quick cool-down therapy. Keep coolers of ice on hand to refresh the cooling towels and encourage your crew to change them out frequently. If your teams are operating without bump caps or hard hats, make sure they are wearing hats to help reduce direct sun exposure to their heads. Keeping the head cool can help regulate the body and prevent overheating. If your crews are working in indoor spaces that don't offer air conditioning, make sure you have the fans ready to help keep the air moving.
Encourage your teams to dress appropriately. Depending on the nature of your outdoor construction project, they may be limited to specific personal protective equipment, such as steel-toed boots, high visibility vests or hard hats. When applicable, however, allow them to wear breathable shirts that are lighter in the fabric. If your crew can perform their outdoor construction jobs safely with their own choice of street clothes, consider allowing them to wear light pants, shorts or sleeveless shirts during predicted hottest days of the week.
Adjust the Schedule
Sometimes, the best way to avoid the heat is to start working earlier in the day. Consider adjusting your crews' work schedule during the summer months. Starting earlier in the morning will afford your teams cooler temperatures and less sun exposure. If any of your team members need to acclimate themselves to the outdoor work, whether it be due to time off or being new, consider a lighter workload for the first week. Doing this will allow their bodies to adjust to the heat and the workload appropriately.
There is probably nothing worst than needing to spend an extra hour under the heat to fill out paperwork. Yet, filling out that information on the spot is critical to the success of your projects. So what can you do? Use tablets or mobile solutions to speed up the process. A construction software with mobile capabilities will generate pre-filled information and let you enter relevant information at a fraction of the time needed to fill out physical papers. They can enter the tasks performed, monitor their time, making sure all their metrics are correct, and everyone can keep track of the progress of the project. One customer of ABIS explains: "It gives our guys a place to capture their time, capture their notes as they happen, not 5 hours later, the next day, or the next week". "My guys love it" says another manager "The program itself is probably the best tool they have, because they don’t have to worry about paperwork" he added. So this summer, do your crews a favor and invest in a paperless system.
Keep the sunscreen handy and make sure your crews are applying several times throughout the day. The best protection is SPF 30 or higher, and several brands also feature water protection, which is helpful for those who sweat. Encourage your teams to apply liberally to the face, arms, and shoulders to protect them from the harmful UV rays during their working hours.
An overheated worker may present symptoms such as heat rash or exhaustion and can run the risk of more severe heat-related complications. Be mindful of the predicted temperatures and heat indexes for your upcoming work weeks and be prepared. Have a plan in place to offer quick cool-down options for your crews and encourage them to monitor their own conditions throughout the day. Keep your workers cool and refreshed and your projects on schedule this summer.