Working construction is a hot, sweaty business, with lots of time spent outdoors, without air conditioning, and in direct sunlight. Plus there’s all that site-safe clothing and PPE—essential parts of the outfit, but not always the coolest. And things are of course at their worst during the summer. The risks of sunburns, dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke are very real, and skin cancer is another long-term concern.
This is why effective heat and sun protection tips for construction workers are so important. Most of them are common sense, but they’re easy to forget about or brush aside while busily working at the job site. So it’s good to be reminded once in a while about how to stay safe out there in the hot weather, humidity, and sunshine.
Look over these heat and sun protection tips for construction workers and try to keep them in mind over the course of your shifts.
Heat and Sun Safety at Construction Sites
- Take breaks in the shade or air conditioning as often as possible; for employers, make sure to provide regular break opportunities and shaded break areas
- Drink water constantly throughout the day; also, have a sports drink or two or fruit juice to replenish electrolytes as well as fluids
- Skip the caffeinated beverages at work, as they are diuretics that increase the risk of dehydration; hopefully, we don’t need to say not to drink alcoholic drinks before or during work
- Apply water-resistant sunblock of at least SPF 30 to all your exposed skin and reapply it every two hours; just be careful to use tools and operate machinery with slippery hands
- Consider picking up some shirts with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF); it’s usually job site-appropriate, lightweight, and breathable
- Tightly knit, darkly colored clothing proved the best protection against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but keep in mind that it’s also hotter than more breathable, lighter colored clothing
- Wear a hat with a brim if you aren’t wearing a hardhat; consider a brim accessory that attaches to your hardhat if you do wear one
- Choose sunglasses and safety glasses that provide UV protection
- While this can be difficult to arrange at a construction site, minimize work in direct sunlight as much as possible between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest
Signs that You’re Overheating or Becoming Dehydrated
It’s also really important that you don’t ignore any signs or symptoms of dehydration or sun poisoning. Unchecked, these conditions can become very serious. They also interfere with your ability to concentrate, remain alert, think clearly, and maintain full body strength. In other words, they put you and all your coworkers at increased risk of accidents that can cause injury or death.
So, if you notice any of the following signs, it’s time to go cool down and rehydrate with a sports drink or fruit juice. If the symptoms are severe, seek medical attention. Also, keep an eye on your fellow construction workers.
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Darkly colored urine
- Decreased urination
- Peeing frequently in small amounts
- Throbbing headache
- Feeling lightheaded or dizziness
- Excessive sweating or lack of sweat
- Feeling tired or sluggish
- Muscle cramps
- Dry or inelastic skin
- Skin unusually hot or cold
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid or shallow breathing
- Difficulty focusing or confusion