The Dangers of Heat Exposure in Construction Work
Brian Ricci, an attorney representing construction workers across all North Carolina. With summer just around the corner, many companies who rely on outdoor workers are preparing to ramp up their safety training programs. Keeping workers safe while out in the heat is a serious matter, and there are many heat-related injuries and even deaths that take place each and every year. The construction industry is at an especially elevated risk of heat-related issues, as the majority of work is completed outside and often under time constraints. The following information is offered in the hopes of informing both employers and construction workers on the importance of taking proper safety precautions while working outdoors during the summer months in and around Greenville, North Carolina.
Perceived vs Real Dangers
Construction workers, in general, are a tough lot. These are the men and women who build our homes, schools, hospitals and office buildings. They create the roads that we rely on and the infrastructure that keeps our nation running. Very often, they have become accustomed to working in an environment in which there are ever-present dangers and uncomfortable conditions. While that grit and work ethic is a requirement for the job, it can also leave construction workers vulnerable to serious heat-related injuries. One of the most impactful things that employers and management staff can do to reduce the risk of heat exposure on the job site is to educate workers on heat-related issues.
That begins with an overview of the body's capabilities and limitations. The human body is complex, and we are able to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions. When it comes to heat exposure, our bodies react by producing sweat, and the evaporation of that sweat is powerful temperature regulating mechanism. However, there comes a point beyond which sweating alone is not sufficient to reduce body temperature. At that point, heat exhaustion and other heat-related injuries can occur.
What is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is not capable of maintaining a healthful internal temperature. An individual's body temperature will continue to rise, and their heart rate will hasten. The next step is often a feeling of lost concentration and inability to focus normally. Ironically, people tend to lose the desire to drink fluids as heat exhaustion progresses, which does nothing to make the situation better. Finally, the individual may feel physically ill or faint. A loss of consciousness is a sign that immediate treatment is necessary, and death is a possibility if emergency medical care is not available. Other heat-related health issues include cramps, heat stroke, dehydration and overall exhaustion leading to workplace accidents.
What Can Workers do to Avoid Heat-Related Injuries?
Workers can protect their health first and foremost by paying close attention to the signals that their body is sending. Many workers find that adhering to scheduled work/rest cycles is an effective way to address heat fatigue, while others will work increasingly longer periods of time in the heat to build up a tolerance. Drinking plenty of water is critical, and should be a part of every worker's daily routine. Finally, workers should take advantage of any training that is offered in regard to workplace safety, and should address any concerns about their working conditions to the appropriate member of management. In cases where safe working conditions are not properly addressed, it may be necessary to report the employer to the appropriate authorities.
Summer is a busy time in the Pitt County area, especially for construction workers who take advantage of the warm days to continue to expand and improve our buildings and roadways. By taking the time to learn about heat-related occupational dangers and review safe practices, it is possible to avoid serious workplace injuries, and to enjoy those warm summer days and nights for many years to come.
Greenville, NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
I am a longtime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Founder of the leading personal injury website: http://www.riccilawnc.com/personal-injury/