Heat during construction operations will put heat stress on workers, whether they’re working indoors or outdoors. Aside from natural causes like sunlight, hot and humid conditions in the workplace are caused by a variety of reasons. Indoors, it can be the numerous machineries, like the electrical utilities, smelters, furnace operations, electrical vaults and boiler rooms. Outdoors, causes of heat include road building, homebuilding, trenching, working on roofs, and excavations. The almost inexhaustible list just shows that management of heat stress is an apparent concern.
In this regard, the Construction Safety Association of Ontario has come up with a guide to managing heat stress during construction.
If left unaddressed, what can heat stress lead to? Some of the common problems are heat rash, sunburn, and heat cramps.
1. Heat Rash
This happens when the environment is hot and humid, thereby plugging the sweat glands. It is characterized by a red bumpy rash with severe itching. When this occurs, change into dry clothes and stay away from hot environments. It’s also important to rinse the concerned area with cool water.
Caused by too much exposure to the sun, sunburn is seen as red, painful blistering or peeling in the skin. If this happens, medical aid must be sought. A skin lotion should also be applied, while avoiding topical anaesthetics.
3. Heat Cramps
When there are painful cramps that occur suddenly in the arms, legs or stomach, the person most likely suffered from heat cramps. It’s serious because it can be a symptom of other danger heat-induced illnesses. When this happens, move the worker to a cooler area, loosen the clothing, and have him/her drink cool salted water with 1 tablespoon of salt for every gallon of water. If severe cramps persist, medical aid must be sought.
This happens when there’s fluid loss and insufficient water intake. When there’s sudden fainting after two hours of continuous work, weak pulse, and cool moist skin, heat is most probably the cause. Medical attention must be sought, and the person must be made to lie down.
5. Heat Exhaustion
Characterized by heavy sweating, low blood pressure, tiredness, nausea, extreme thirst, and a body temperature of over 38ºC, heat exhaustion is quite serious. It’s imperative to get medical attention as it can lead to heat stroke. Immediately remove excess clothing and give cool water to drink and spray on the worker.
5. Heat Stroke
This happens when a person has a high body temperature of over 40 ºC, feels confused, acts strangely, has hot or dry skin, a fast pulse, and dizziness. An ambulance must be called immediately. Removal of excess clothing, offering cool water, and spraying the person with cold water are also supplementary measures.