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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New Construction Worker Safety Tips

Originally published 06/06/2018

New workers think differently than older, more experienced people in the workplace. They are typically inexperienced and may not be familiar with the job tasks or hazards on worksites or in workplaces. New workers are more willing to take unnecessary risks and possibly putting themselves into hazardous situations, without thinking they are, because they are eager to get the job done. They may be new to construction work altogether, and it may be the first job they’ve ever had. They may feel discouraged to ask questions for fear of appearing unknowledgeable to their coworkers and superiors.

It is important for a supervisor to provide new workers with constant interaction along with hands-on training until they are certified or deemed competent for the job at hand. Engaging them to ensure they feel valued and part of the team is also important. It allows them to feel comfortable sharing questions and concerns they may otherwise conceal out of fear of looking incompetent, leading to potential workplace accidents or injuries. Regular safety meetings are a way to keep new workers engaged and feeling like they are able to approach their supervisors with questions, concerns, or ideas they may have for the work they are expected to do.

Training is essential before any work begins. Start with a thorough orientation to the company, the safety rules, emergency procedures, and rights and responsibilities. Document the training, and possibly give a brief quiz at the end of orientation. When supplying workers with personal protective equipment, train them how to use it, educate them on the limitations and show them how to care for and maintain it. Before they can start any work, you must show them how to perform on a job safely. One of the best ways to train workers how to perform jobs safely is to have accurate, well-written safe work practices and safe job procedures. Have an experienced supervisor train them. Engage them by providing specific job-related safety training and specific job procedures for each task they are expected to perform. Train them on hazard recognition and control. One of the keys to safety is to know how to recognize and control hazards.

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Lifting Safety

Originally published 05/29/2018

Construction work can be rough on the body. We perform many tasks that involves pushing, pulling and most dangerous lifting. When similar task are performed without consideration of the damage that can be caused to the body injuries such as pulled or strained muscles not to mention the more serious ones involving ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround the spine. It is important to be aware of the common practices in construction where injuries are most prevalent:

Here are a few ways that injuries commonly occur:

  1. Repetitive lifting.
  2. Twisting while lifting instead of turning our feet.
  3. Falling or slipping while carrying a load.
  4. Losing grip causing the load to shift.
  5. Carrying bulky objects with arms outstretched.
  6. Carrying objects that are too heavy.
  7. Uneven walking surfaces.
  8. Climbing stairs while carrying objects.
  9. Using the spine to do the lifting instead of your legs.

Here are a few tips to follow to help prevent the occurrence of an injury:

  1. Break down loads. Don’t carry entire bundles, break them down.
  2. Use a machine – skid steer, loader, pickup truck, dolly, etc.
  3. Place equipment such as generators, compressors and welders to prevent the need for frequent movement.
  4. Use wagons, dollies to move tool boxes, supplies, crates, etc.
  5. Team lift with a coworker to share the load.
  6. When supplies are delivered, ask the delivery person to unload them as close as possible to where they’re needed.
  7. Pick up trip hazards on stairs or walkways.
  8. Use gravel to make ramps over footings or concrete pad edges.
  9. Wear proper footwear for the jobsite.

Planning ahead and having forethought about the lift can go a long way toward avoiding injuries.

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The Dangers Associated With Complacency

Originally published 12/19/2017

Complacency is one of the biggest problems we face when completing day-to-day tasks…even in construction.

Webster’s Dictionary defines complacency as “self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” This state of mind can affect many things such as productivity, quality of work and safety. In fact, when it comes to safety, complacency can be a literal “killer” on the job. It’s easy to underestimate the risks of tasks we perform regularly, or fail to notice a change in our environment when we become complacent. When you work in “auto-pilot mode” and stop paying attention to what you are doing, it can lead to taking short cuts and risks.

Think ahead as you approach each task; even if you do the task every day. Each time you approach the task consider:

  • What you are working with,
  • What you will be doing,
  • Where you will be going, and
  • What could go wrong.

The message here is “never let your guard down.”

  • Follow established protocols and procedures.
  • Attend daily safety meetings and discuss changes and potential hazards that could develop on your worksite.
  • Wear the appropriate PPE for the task you are performing.
  • Review a JSA before starting a task.
  • Stop and think about the safety aspect of the task you are about to start.
  • Maintain good housekeeping and organization.
  • Take note of other workers or equipment coming into your area.
  • Report any and all perceived or potential hazards on the worksite.
  • Report all near misses then discuss them. This will help you identify trends, correct current problems and prevent future incidents and injuries.
  • Coach and mentor each other. Watch out for each other.

All of these actions require conscious effort. It’s impossible to be complacent when you’re putting these things into action.

So remember to stay focused. Plan ahead. Follow protocols and procedures and watch out for one another no matter how often you’ve done the same task. Each of us is responsible for the safety of our worksite. Don’t let yourself or your co-workers down.

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Workplace Violence

Originally published 12/12/2017

Workplace violence can happen anywhere, any time – including on a construction site. It can come from a co-worker or a stranger. Workers that are particularly vulnerable are those that exchange money with the public; deliver passengers, goods or services; work alone or in small groups during early morning hours or late at night; or work in high-crime areas. According to an OSHA Fact Sheet, some two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year.

Workplace violence is any physical assault, threatening behavior or verbal abuse occurring in the work setting. Before people explode, they may give signals that something is wrong. Some of those signals might include:

  • Social isolation.
  • Frustration, confusion or faulty decision-making.
  • Complaints of unfair treatment.
  • Excessive lateness or absenteeism.
  • Blaming others for mistakes.
  • Inappropriate comments about revenge, violence or weapons.
  • Disrespect for authority.
  • Overreacting to criticism.
  • Anger and hostility.

The best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees. Make sure all employees know and understand the policy and that they understand that all claims will be investigated and, where necessary, remedied.

Nothing can guarantee that an employee will not become a victim of workplace violence. These steps, however, can help reduce the odds:

  • Learn how to recognize, avoid or diffuse potentially violent situations by attending personal safety training programs on workplace violence.
  • Don’t get drawn into arguments.
  • Take verbal threats seriously, but don’t respond to them. Report all threats to your supervisor.
  • Report all incidents of bullying and sexual harassment.
  • Watch for unauthorized visitors – even those who appear to have legitimate business at your work site or office.
  • Report suspicious people or vehicles.
  • Don’t give out information about fellow employees.
  • Devise a plan such as predetermined code words, so that one employee can tell another about a dangerous customer or visitor without tipping off the suspect.
  • Trust your instincts.

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Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

Originally published 12/06/2017

Heart attacks can happen any time, any place – including on the construction site. Knowing the early warning signs of a heart attack is critical for fast diagnosis and treatment.

Many heart attacks start slowly. You might not even know you’re having one. And the symptoms vary greatly. Even a person who has had a previous heart attack may have different symptoms if they have another attack. And women can experience heart attacks differently than men.

Although chest pain or pressure is the most common symptom of a heart attack, a person may experience one or more of the following:

  • Pain, fullness, and/or a squeezing sensation of the chest;
  • Jaw pain, toothache or headache;
  • Shortness of breath;
  • Nausea, vomiting, and/or general upper middle abdomen discomfort;
  • Sweating;
  • Heartburn and/or indigestion;
  • Arm pain – more commonly the left arm, but may be either arm;
  • Upper back pain;
  • A general, vague feeling of illness and
  • Some people do not experience any symptoms. Approximately one quarter of all heart attacks are silent – without chest pain or other symptoms. Silent heart attacks are especially common among patients with diabetes.

Go for regular check-ups, eat healthy foods, exercise and get enough sleep. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you think you or someone around you is displaying heart attack symptoms, do something about it. Get it checked out.

What to do if someone appears to be having a heart attack:

  • Call 911. Even if it ends up not being a heart attack, it is better to be safe than sorry. Getting the proper medical attention quickly for a heart attack victim is their best chance to survive an attack.
  • Try to keep the person calm, and have them sit or lie down.
  • Have the person take an aspirin (as long as they can talk to you and tell you they are not allergic to aspirin).
  • If the person stops breathing, you or someone else who is qualified, should perform CPR. If you do not know CPR, the 911 operator can assist you until the EMS personnel arrive.

Take heart attack symptoms seriously. We know most of the people we work with pretty well. If something seems wrong, talk to the person or get a supervisor involved. Know the emergency response plan on your worksite. Knowing who to call, the address of the worksite and who is CPR trained onsite can save a life.

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