Avoiding any form of heat illness is our number one goal during the hot summer months.
Avoiding any form of heat illness is our number one goal during the hot summer months of June, July, and August. When you work in an industry like construction where you are exposed to every element, you must PREPARE for every element. So what is heat illness? Heat illness is defined as “the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating” (CDC/NIOSH). There are three primary types of heat illness: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat cramps include short, painful, and sudden muscle spasms or cramps. These reactions are commonly seen in the arms, legs, hands, and abdomen. These muscle cramps can also be coupled with profuse sweating, fatigue, and thirst!
Heat exhaustion symptoms include headache, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, weakness, thirst, anxiety, poor coordination, weak and rapid pulse, heavy sweating, and elevated body temperature. This is your body’s sign to literally “chill out” for a bit!
The number one heat related illness to avoid is a heat stroke. It is important to know the signs of a heat stroke because, if untreated, it can be fatal. Symptoms include headaches, nausea and vomiting, rapid pulse, extreme thirst, sudden loss of consciousness, disorientation, delirium, slurred speech, potential convulsions or seizures, and hot, dry skin with no sweat.
So what can we do to minimize heat illness, exhaustion, or heat-stroke?
The first steps to fighting heat exhaustion begin with what you put in your body and what you do at home. The best time to hydrate for tomorrow is today! If you know that Tuesday morning may be in triple digits, you should heavily hydrate on Monday night.
A healthy, vegetable and fruit rich diet helps your body retain moisture. Water is your number one source for hydration, but there are many drinks out there that can help boost or supplement hydration. A few that we suggest are electrolyte drink mixes such as LiquidIV, Gatorade, Squinchers, or other types of sports drinks. It is important to choose electrolyte drinks that are higher in sodium content. Sodium helps the body to retain moisture so that you are not expelling all of your body’s moisture too quickly.
The second step to preventing heat illness is to take frequent breaks in the shade! This will help to cool you down, allow you time to hydrate, and give you an opportunity to rest so you are not overworking your body.
While resting, it is a great idea to keep fans with water misters nearby to help in particularly hot and dry conditions. Resting in shade also helps to lower your core body temperature, which can be supplemented with cooling towels or electrolyte popsicles.
It is recommended that implementing work/rest rotations based on the temperature, heat index, and humidity level can aid in keeping employees healthy. For example, at a temperature of 95 degrees, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health would recommend taking a break every 45 minutes for 15 minutes depending on the intensity of work being done (NIOSH/CDC).
Lastly, two types of people are more susceptible to heat illness: new employees that are not acclimated to working in the conditions, and employees that have experienced heat illness before. It is common practice in the construction industry to implement acclimation periods for new employees. Acclimation periods include only allowing a new employee to work a few hours in hot conditions for the first week or so, gradually increasing the time spent working in the hot conditions until their body has acclimated or gotten used to working in the conditions.
Heat illness is a focus across the construction industry every summer. Many initiatives include slogans such as “Beat the Heat” and “Fight the Summer Slump”. We provide our team with the proper tools and training materials to increase their hydration and reduce heat related injuries.
By making hydration available to every member of our team and training each person to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms, and prevention measures, we are setting everyone up for a very healthy and safe experience! By implementing measures to acclimate employees, we take our employee’s health to heart so they can go home to their families every night in the same shape they come to work every morning… with a little extra sun on their skin - don’t forget the spf!
Learn more about what makes East & Westbrook the COOLEST team in the industry and keep up with everything that we do to keep our team safe! You can check us out on our website, find your career on our team, or choose our organization to build your next project. From concrete construction to commercial construction, industrial construction, and general construction in between, we are ready to build your next HOT project while beating the heat!
East & Westbrook Construction Co. Inc. has worked with commercial and industrial clients since 1977 to solve their most challenging construction problems. Through strategic partnership and calculated growth, we now offer our clients a wide variety of construction services both regionally and nationally. Today, 80% of our projects come from repeat customers. Our foundation is built on safety, quality, and performance. Lastly, East & Westbrook was awarded by Louisville Business First the Best Place to Work Award. For more information about starting your next project or joining our team, call 502-222-0303.