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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Originally published 05/23/2017

Peak construction season usually means working on hot summer days with soaring temperatures. There are several problems that can occur while working on a construction site in such conditions, however the most common is dehydration.

Dehydration occurs when your body does not have enough fluid. It can be caused by losing too much fluid, not drinking enough fluids, or both. In hot weather, your body expels a lot of water through perspiration as it tries to keep from overheating. The hotter the weather, the more you perspire and the more fluids you need to replace.

A widely held misconception is that everyone needs 64 ounces (eight cups) of fluid each day. While these quantities are appropriate for most people, they don’t take into account a person’s body size or activity level. Though no single formula fits everyone, some nutritionists contend that a more accurate way to determine your fluid requirement is to divide your body weight in half. This is how many ounces of fluid you need daily to meet your basic needs. So a 150-pound person would need to drink at least 75 ounces (just over nine cups) of fluid daily, while a 200-pound individual requires at least 100 ounces (about 12.5 cups).

Levels of dehydration can range from mild to severe based upon how much of the body’s fluid is lost and not replenished. Dehydration can escalate and become a life-threatening illness. Therefore, it is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration. These signs and symptoms generally include:

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Low or no urine output (concentrated urine appears dark yellow)
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate and breathing

To treat dehydration, re-hydrate the body by drinking plenty of fluids. Stay away from caffeinated drinks. Also, recognize the fact that if you are dehydrated, you have lost sugar, salts and minerals, as well as water. Re-hydration solutions such as sports drinks can be very helpful in this instance.

As with all on-the-job illnesses, prevention is key. During hot and humid weather, don’t neglect your fluid consumption. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids. Once you start to feel thirsty, dehydration could have already begun. Light-weight, light-colored, breathable clothing can also make a difference. Every effort you make to stay cool on hot summer days will go a long way toward staying safe on a construction site.

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Prevent Overexertion Injuries

Caring for our bodies is critical in creating and maintaining a successful construction career. This doesn’t mean you need to be a champion weight lifter or an Olympic athlete, but success involves taking care of your primary asset – your body.

According to the National Safety Council, physical overexertion is the most common cause of workers’ compensation claims. Repetitive motions such as typing, lifting heavy objects or working in awkward positions usually cause these injuries. The overexertion pain is often acute, but it will decrease after medical care and preventative measures to prevent further injury. Constant overexertion can result in chronic pain, leading to problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis.

You can avoid physical overexertion by:

  • Using ergonomic workspaces. This will ensure that you use materials and tools in a way that minimizes stress on your body as you work.
  • Lifting lighter loads. Reduce the actual amount of weight you are lifting, or use a dolly or mechanical means of lifting.
  • Decreasing the distance you stretch to lift a heavy object. You may be tempted to overstretch when tools are just out of reach. This can also lead to falls.
  • Strength training and stretching. Many resist the idea of stretching before work, but statistics prove that this is an excellent way to avoid an overexertion injury.
  • Knowing and respecting your body’s limits. This is key to avoiding injuring yourself as you work.

Other important factors linked to overexertion include:


Burning the candle at both ends is an unsustainable and unhealthy way to live. Sleep is essential to your health; it allows the mind and body to heal and recharge after dealing with the previous day’s stress.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and Dehydration

Did you ever have such a busy day that you forgot to eat or drink enough water? This can contribute to your health risk, particularly if you are overexerting yourself. Hypoglycemia and dehydration can have serious health implications.