Heat-Related Safety Guides
Check out these resources for making your construction site heat-stress free.
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Protecting Against Heat Illness is a Big Job
It’s no small thing, watching out for the health and safety of your workers. In addition to making sure that everyone gets through the workday with all their fingers, when the weather turns helter-swelter, there’s also heat stress to worry about. Luckily for crew chiefs, there’s a constellation of resources to help keep workers safe and aware.
Online Training Manuals and Handouts
This document is used for heat illness training in California. Also useful is the Golden State’s Heat Illness Prevention e-tool that includes real-world examples of heat stroke, plus quizzes and checklists. This two-page guide from San Francisco State University lays out the basics in plain language.
Accessible Learning Games
For something a little more offbeat, check out Heat Stress Jeopardy in English and Spanish, courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center.
The Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center has also produced a series of delightfully campy “novellas” in Spanish with English subtitles. Watch many amateur actors collapse in dramatic fashion, all while sharing safety tips.
Eye-Catching Safety Posters
Underline the story for your workers by illustrating it big. Hang up this bright yellow poster from Virginia Tech that covers the health effects of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Order a few Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) QuickCards that cover risk factors and symptoms. Or, check out this page from Iowa State University that links to a bright red and yellow poster with illness symptoms in English and Spanish. The U.S. Army Public Health Command sells Heat Can Kill! stickers and Heat Illness Prevention pocket guides. Amazon also sells a large laminated poster with the basics on heat exhaustion versus heat stroke.
Urine Color Charts
The U.S. Army Public Health Command has a chart to check the color of your urine to see if you’re dehydrated. Order it as a plasticized card from their e-Catalog and put it in the construction site bathroom.
Next-Level Emergency Supplies
If you have a basic OSHA/ANSI compliant emergency kit, then your entire heat stress plan involves two small cold packs. That’s why many people invest in heat-stress specific emergency kits, or at least invest in a big box of cold packs. There are more advanced emergency supplies out there, though, including the Polar Life Pod, a reusable cold water immersion device (shown above).
Specialty Clothing Manufacturers
Several companies specialize in cooling clothes, accessories and site spot coolers. These include Ergodyne, Polar Products, OccuNomix, (wicking t-shirt shown here), Mission, and TechNiche International. Peruse their wares to get a sense of what’s available to overheated workers. Construction Pro Tips also has a cooling gear slideshow featuring innovative products with glowing Amazon reviews. [Add link to cooling products slideshow]
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Heat Safety Tool reminds users to drink enough fluids, schedule rest breaks, plan for emergencies, adjust work operations, gradually build up workloads for new workers, and train on heat illness signs and symptoms. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)’s Heat Safety Tool app is also worth downloading.
Myth-Busting Academic Studies
While talking safety with your crew, why not knock down a few heat illness myths while you’re at it? This page from the Centers for Disease Control lays out a few popular myths, such as: there’s no sweating with heat stroke (wrong), that acclimatization will protect you during a heat wave (wrong), and that salt tablets are a good way to get electrolytes (wrong). This study from 2017 tackles the common belief that room temperature water is better for hydration than chilled water. In actuality, both work equally well.
Rentable and Buyable Cooling Stations
Cooling Stations are a big worksite trend, and the sky’s the limit on what you can do. Xtreme Manufacturing in Henderson, Nevada sells a self-contained cooling station called the Xtreme Cube with restrooms, shade, chilled water fountains, ice machines and break seating. CoolShirt sells a six-person cooling “rehab station” for $4,882. Portacool sells mobile evaporative coolers starting at $836, or there’s the $6,541 Power Breezer, a portable misting air circulator that can last up to five days on a tank of water. PortaMist makes a clever cooling kit that sets up on the back of a truck. It includes a battery-operated mister and hitch umbrella. You can even add “Blood Sucker” to the mister, an oil blend that repels mosquitoes. If you happen to be in northeast Florida, the Polar Pod (shown here) is regularly rented out to construction sites. It has padded bench seating for up to 18 people, a chilled water cooler, anti-fog windows and a 46-inch HDTV.
Water Safety Aids
Make sure your on-site water supply is clean, cool and checked on. Potable Water Tape and Water Cooler Labels and a water cooler tether lockout will help prevent contamination. For something far beyond the standard Igloo cooler, there’s the construction site portable water refill station from WaterFillz with a high-capacity thermal exchange system for rapid cooling and 36 square feet of advertising space (perfect for a heat illness safety reminder).
Mobile Personal Emergency Response Systems (mPERS)
MPERS are traditionally manufactured for seniors, but these devices are regularly handed out on worksites because they have long ranges, hold charge exponentially longer than worker’s own cellphones, and do the essential: sound a fast alert when a worker falls or falls ill. Another insider tip from construction safety managers: have unacclimatized workers wear a different color hardhat. That way it’s easier to check for red eyes, disorientation and other signs of heat exhaustion.
One Last Word
Research by the Construction Industry Institute has shown that for every $1 invested in workforce training, there is a return of $3. In one case study shown at the 2019 Construction User Roundtable (CURT) National Conference, $235,239 in training costs led to a labor cost savings of $664,364 for one project. It’s not just smart and potentially lifesaving to be heat illness aware, it’s also money-wise.
About the Author;
Alyssa Ford is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in the Star Tribune, msn.com, Crain’s, Minnesota Monthly, Midwest Home, Experience Life and many other publications.