According to OSHA, 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest on record. OSHA has recently called for comments on a proposal to protect workers from heat risks, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion. These risks are especially high for construction crews. Here’s what you need to know about the proposed rules, heat risks for construction crews, and important ways to keep cool on construction sites.
Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention
In October 2021, OSHA announced an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. The ANPRM is a preliminary information-gathering stage prior to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which lays out more specific problems and plans to address them. If the process continues, the rules may become enforceable legislation. At the ANPRM stage, OSHA has highlighted some specifics regarding heat illness and injury, but no rules or plans have yet been laid out at this stage.
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Heat Injury, Heat Illness and Construction Crews
What does the ANPRM for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention mean for construction crews? Whether the regulations move forward or not, this ANPRM highlights a growing problem. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,920 incidents of non-fatal injury or illness due to extreme environmental heat. On average, worker heat deaths have doubled since the mid-1990’s. Working outside under strenuous conditions, heat risk precautions are especially important for construction crews. The specific topics highlighted in the ANPRM provide a framework for addressing heat risks. These tips to keep safe and cool on construction sites can help you get ahead of potential legislation, reduce worker injuries, and create a more productive workplace overall.
5 Tips to Keep Safe and Cool on Construction Sites
1. Understand Heat Illness
Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are common and serious heat-related illnesses. When heat stroke and heat exhaustion occur, the body’s temperature rises too much, too quickly, causing dizziness, nausea, fainting, organ failure and even death. A lack of acclimation to heat, physical strain, lack of water, and pre-existing medical conditions can all worsen the risk and severity of heat-related illnesses.
2. Water, Ice, Rest and Shade
Water, ice, rest and shade are all essential in preventing heat illness, and responding to it effectively. Keeping full ice coolers on-site, providing access to clean drinking water, and providing shaded areas can save a life. If employees show signs of dizziness or excessive fatigue, cold water, ice and rest can help to bring their body temperature down. With the ICE2U app, you can easily find the closest ice and water vending machine to your job site, and get ice for a fraction of the cost.
3. Assess Risk
Risk of heat illness and injury should be assessed just like any other job hazard. Performing a job hazard analysis can show where the most significant risks appear, and how these risks might be mitigated. A hazardous zone might include an area exposed to direct sunlight, or it might include any area of the job site when temperatures exceed a certain level. A hazardous task might include any that increases heat levels or requires physical exertion. Though this might include many tasks, a thorough job hazard analysis can be a powerful tool to show where the biggest risks are, and how they might be addressed.
Acclimatization can help employees and employers reduce risk of heat illness and injury. The CDC provides a guide for acclimatization that helps employees adapt to the heat and physical labor. These guidelines help to reduce the stress put on the body, and allow the body to adapt to the conditions gradually. This way, the body’s physical limitations aren’t suddenly overwhelmed, causing fainting, hospitalization or death.
5. Heat Illness Response
If heat illness does occur, employees and employers should all know how to execute a response plan. Everyone at the construction site should be aware of the dangers of heat exhaustion, be able to recognize the signs of heat illness—including nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and heavy sweating, among others—and respond to heat illness appropriately. A shaded area with cold water and ice should be readily available. Clear criteria for emergency response, such as fainting, confusion, or seizures, as well as clear emergency response procedures, should be laid out.
As heat risks rise for construction crews, keeping safe and cool on construction sites will become even more important, regardless of legislation. Take an honest look at these risks, provide proper training and acclimatization, and keep ice and water available on-site. Everyone on the construction site will be safer and able to perform their jobs more effectively. Use the ICE2U app to make getting ice and water cheap and easy for your construction team.