Construction is an inherently dangerous industry to work in. But in the summer, outdoor conditions can significantly add to the risk construction workers face. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines three key summer risks that site managers and construction workers alike should be aware of – and take steps to mitigate:
Extreme heat creates an obvious safety risk for construction workers. Prolonged exposure to heat can lead to heat rash, heat cramps – or in more serious cases, heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Symptoms of such conditions may include dizziness, confusion, loss of consciousness, unusually hot skin and irrational behavior. These conditions may require hospitalization and can even be fatal.
To help prevent heat-related illnesses, it’s important for workers to avoid prolonged exposure to the heat. Workers should be allowed regular breaks to hydrate and rest in the shade or in an air-conditioned space. Modifying work schedules – so that workers are do less physically demanding work during hotter periods – can also be beneficial. It’s also valuable to have someone on the site who can recognize the signs of heat illness and offer medical care as necessary.
Prolonged ultraviolet (UV) radiation is also a threat to construction workers. It can lead to serious conditions – such as cataracts and skin cancer. While construction workers may not be able to control how much exposure they have to the sun on a given day, they can take steps to protect themselves from its harmful effects. Workers should wear:
- Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
- Loose, long-sleeved clothing
- A brimmed hat
- UV-absorbent sunglasses
Working outdoors in the summer will most likely involve exposure to insects. Depending on the work site location, diseases from insect bites can also be a risk for construction workers. A tick bite could result in a bulls-eye shaped rash and could be a sign of Lyme Disease. A bit from an infected mosquito could cause West Nile Virus – with symptoms ranging from fever and body aches to tremors and coma.
If working in a wooded area, or a lush area with high humidity, it may be especially important to take steps to prevent such insect bites. Workers should:
- Wear pants and a long-sleeved shirt
- Tuck pant legs into socks
- Wear insect repellant with DEET
- Wear a hat
- Shower after work and examine the body for ticks or signs of bites
While an accident can happen anywhere, workers have a right to expect their employer to take all necessary steps to limit hazards and reduce risk. Construction workers who have been injured on the job have recourse to seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages and other damages they may incur.