Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Stay cool in the summer months!

After spending the past 5 months of the year complaining about the usual rainy British weather, mother nature seems to have repaid us in immense (and extremely uncomfortable!) proportions.

Whilst most of us can seek shelter inside an air-conditioned office, the UK’s construction force often miss out on the same luxuries and are therefore at a high risk for heat-related illnesses.

Prolonged exposure to the heat as well as the strenuous nature of the jobs puts you on a high likelihood of becoming unwell – so it is essential that sites are proactive in keeping themselves and others safe in the summer months.

Here are FastTrack’s 5 top tips on how to avoid heat related illnesses in the summer months!

Drink up!
We all know we should be drinking a minimum of 2litres of water a day but during these hot summer months, this should increase to nearly 3litres! A great way to keep check is to try having a quick drink every 15-20 minutes, or get your hands on one of these water bottles to help you keep track of how much water you’ve drank throughout the day! 

Handy tip!
We know cups of tea and coffee may not be on the top of your list on a hot summer’s day (they’re certainly not on ours!) but if you find yourself reaching for the kettle regardless – try to restrict the amount of caffeinated drinks you knock back in the heat.  They contain diuretics which can make you even more dehydrated!

Dress appropriately!
It may sound obvious but with H&S regulations interfering with our desire to work topless and in shorts, it can be tricky to choose the gear that will protect you and keep you cool.  When stocking up on your site gear, aim for lightweight and light-colored clothing to help you stay cool and if possible, find clothing and protective gear with moisture wicking properties!
Don’t forget some shades if the sun is reflecting into your eyes and sunscreen for any exposed areas!
Give the new guy some leeway!
According to OSHA, workers who are new on site are more likely to struggle with the heat! They claim,
Workers new to outdoor jobs are generally most at risk for heat-related illnesses. Cal/OSHA investigated 25 incidents of heat-related illness in 2005. In almost half of the cases, the worker involved was on their first day of work and in 80% of the cases the worker involved had only been on the job for four or fewer days.” (This guidance is available online at http://osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/.)
It’s therefore key to allow new workers to ‘acclimatize’ to hot temperatures when working on site.  A good way to manage this is to start doing about 50% of your normal workload and gradually work up to 100% over the next week! It may not seem great for the work-load but it will benefit the team if there are no members off sick with heat-stroke!
Take a break!
It’s simple. If you’re not feeling great, have a break!
Whether it’s under a tree, inside an air con’d car or maybe even inside the portaloo(!), taking 5 minutes to sit in the shade and cool down can stop the heat making you ill! Again, a couple of minutes away from the job won’t have a huge effect on the time it takes to complete a project, but coming down ill and needing days off may!
Finally, know what to do!
Keep an eye on one another, and be alert for signs of heat exhaustion! Early symptoms include lethargy, disorientation, stumbling, dropping tools, slurred speech or unresponsiveness – all of which are extremely dangerous on a construction site!
If you suspect that somebody (or that you!) are suffering from a heat related illness, get them in the shade, remove any unnecessary clothing and ensure they are drinking plenty of water.  You can also put some cool, damp towels/clothing on the back of their neck and wrists/ankles to help reduce their body temperature.  If this fails, don’t feel shy about calling the emergency services – heat illnesses can be extremely serious so better to be safe than sorry!
Look after yourselves and eachother, stay healthy and ensure the efficient running of your site!