Heat Stress is Serious

Originally published on June 20, 2016

Working in a hot environment, such as a construction site, puts stress on the body’s cooling system. When heat is combined with other work stresses – like hard physical labor, loss of fluids, or fatigue – it may lead to heat-related illness, disability or even death. There are three stages to heat-related illness: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps that are brought on because the body has lost minerals through sweating. If cramping occurs, move to a cool area at once. Loosen clothing and drink cool water or an electrolyte replacement beverage. Seek medical aid if the cramps are severe, or don’t go away.

Heat exhaustion can occur after you’ve been exposed to high temperatures for several days and have become dehydrated. Symptoms include confusion, dizziness, headache, fatigue and sometimes nausea. Without proper intervention, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke. If you experience heat exhaustion, get out of the heat immediately and rest, preferably in an air-conditioned environment. If you can’t get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. Slowly drink fluids. If possible, lie down with your feet and legs slightly elevated.

Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat illness and is a medical emergency. It often occurs after heat cramps or heat exhaustion are not properly cared for. But it can strike even if you have no previous signs of heat illness.

Heat stroke can kill, or cause damage to the brain and other internal organs. Symptoms are similar to heat exhaustion, but the skin is hot and dry and breathing is deep and fast. The victim may collapse. The body is no longer able to sweat, and the body temperature rises dangerously. If you suspect that someone is a victim of heat stroke – also known as sun stroke – call 911 immediately. Move the victim to a cool area and remove excess clothing while waiting on help to arrive. Fan and spray them with cool water. Offer sips of water if the victim is conscious.

There are things you can do to prevent heat-related illnesses.

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Consider beverages that replace electrolytes. Stay away from beverages with caffeine. Caffeine contributes to dehydration.
  • Slow down in hot weather. Your body’s temperature-regulating system faces a much greater workload when the temperature and humidity are high.
  • If possible, get accustomed to the heat gradually.
  • Dress for hot weather. Light colored clothing reflects heat.
  • Get out of the heat occasionally. Take breaks in a cool, shady location.
  • Eat light, cool meals.

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Horseplay Has No Place on the Jobsite

Originally published on 11/08/2017

Although most of us like to have fun, there is no place for horseplay on a construction site. According to the dictionary, horseplay means rough fun. Fooling around means doing foolish, useless things. Both are the opposite of safe, responsible work, and most employers ban them on the construction site.

Horseplay is generally a friendly, physical way to let off steam, but that kind of fooling around can:

  • Break your work concentration,
  • Cause you to be less likely to notice hazards until it’s too late, or
  • Cause an accident.
    • You may not notice spills or items lying on the floor.
    • You might crash into or push someone else into heavy equipment or moving machine parts.
    • You could knock boxes or materials over or onto a person.
    • You could stab someone with a sharp object.
    • Fooling around with PPE can damage it and expose you or another worker to injury or a hazardous substance.
    • Speeding or stunt driving with a forklift can cause it to tip over or hit people or objects.
    • Pushing, teasing, or otherwise distracting people working with machinery could cause pinch points or other injuries.

Horseplay can be costly to both the company and employees in doctor bills, workers comp claims, increased insurance costs and lost work. There can also be added costs to replace machinery or tools and equipment.

Employers should:

  • Make sure all employees know the rules of behavior on the job site.
  • Inform employees of the disciplinary consequences of engaging in horseplay on the site.
  • Emphasize “zero tolerance” for horseplay and practical jokes on the site.

Workers’ responsibilities include the following:

  • Do not encourage or provide an audience for horseplay or practical jokes.
  • Never initiate or participate in horseplay or practical jokes.
  • Use common sense and act professionally.

Ask yourself, “Is a coworker’s safety worth my entertainment?” Horseplay can cause severe injury and even death. Take your safety, and the safety of your coworkers seriously and wait till after you’ve left work to horse around.

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Accident Causes and Prevention

Originally published 10/24/2019

Accidents on construction sites generally spur questions like, “What happened?” or “How did it happen?” But accidents don’t just happen. They can almost always be traced back to an unsafe condition, an unsafe act or a combination of both. To eliminate accidents, we must eliminate unsafe conditions and acts.

Unsafe conditions are usually created by:

  • Poor housekeeping;
  • Improper storage;
  • Defective or damaged equipment;
  • Improper maintenance;
  • Removing guards from machinery and, in some rare cases,
  • Unsafe procedures.

Unsafe conditions can be eliminated if crews regularly inspect the worksite and equipment, identify any hazards that exist and correct them.

Although unsafe conditions can lead to accidents, most safety experts agree that the majority of accidents are caused by unsafe acts. These are careless things that people do that are most often the result of poor habits, taking short cuts and even disregarding safety policies and procedures.

Examples of unsafe acts include:

  • Reaching into equipment or machinery while it is running;
  • Backing equipment without looking behind the equipment or using a spotter;
  • Not inspecting tools and equipment before use;
  • Using damaged tools or equipment or
  • Indulging in horseplay on the job.

Remember, because all accidents are caused by an unsafe condition or act, it is possible to prevent them. Do a thorough safety audit on your jobsite. Correct all unsafe conditions and report all unsafe acts.

If an accident does occur, do a safety investigation – not simply to find fault or place blame, but to find out what needs to be corrected so that future accidents can be prevented.

Most companies have safety rules to prevent unsafe acts. Practice them. Eventually, safety will become a habit – a habit that could save a life.

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Backing Safety

Originally published 10/10/2017

One of the highest causes of injury or even fatality in construction is backing accidents. Every time a machine is put into reverse, the potential for danger exists.

Here are some tips that can help make backing up a safe operation:

  • First and foremost, avoid backing equipment and vehicles when at all possible. Plan ahead and set up your site in a way that prevents the need for backing in most instances. Try to position your vehicle so that you can easily pull forward out of a parking spot.
  • Make sure your back-up alarm is working.
  • You might want to invest in back-up cameras for your equipment or vehicles.
  • Mark fixed objects on your jobsite so they are more visible to those operating the equipment or vehicle.
  • Place protective barricades to protect people and critical or expensive equipment from struck-by incidents.
  • If you must back up, know your blind spots and check them before moving your vehicle. Do a complete walk-around of your vehicle.
  • Require everyone near the area where the backing up will take place to wear high visibility apparel and head protection.
  • Limit pedestrian and vehicle crossings in areas where backing will occur.
  • Utilize spotters to control and direct traffic in high-congestion, high-activity areas. The driver and spotter should agree on a stop signal before the driver begins to move the vehicle.
  • Activate warning lights if your vehicle is equipped with them, and sound your horn before backing up.
  • Use your mirrors.
  • Back up slowly and keep your spotter in view. If you lose sight of your spotter, stop.

Remember, backing accidents are almost always preventable if employees are properly trained and exercises caution. Operators and pedestrians alike must recognize the hazards involved when backing machinery or vehicles, and know what to do to avoid accidents.

Download the recording form here.