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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Craft Training Schedules

Our union partners are releasing their 2019-2020 training schedules, and we’ll update this post as we receive them.

Carpenters Newburg & Paducah 2020 Enhancement Schedule

Carpenters Merrillville 2020 Upgrade Schedule

Carpenters Lafayette 2020 Upgrade Schedule

Indiana Laborers 2019-2020 Winter Training Schedule

Operators 103 2019-2020 Apprenticeship Training Schedule

Operators 150 2019-2020 Training Catalog

Operators 181 2019-2020 Training Schedule

Operators 841 2019-2020 Training Schedule

Bloodborne Pathogens

Originally published 02/28/2017

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious materials in blood that can cause disease in humans including: hepatitis B and C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Workers exposed to these pathogens risk serious illness or death.

Pathogens may be acquired through a single exposure. Medical experts agree that exposure occurs by contact with any body fluid that is contaminated with blood or blood components, including saliva and a variety of other body fluids. Some people are concerned that normal physical contact can transmit exposure, but experts deny this. The risk of exposure to a bloodborne pathogen is highest when body fluid contaminated with blood is ingested, inhaled or absorbed by another person. The occupational risk is for specific work assignments that may expose individuals to unknown body fluids. Since you can’t determine by sight if fluids are contaminated with blood, you must assume that pathogens may be present and take precautions.

Construction industry employers should consider developing and documenting the following:

  • For each construction jobsite and/or operation:
    • Identify the processes or procedures where exposure to bloodborne pathogens could occur. (For example: injuries could occur during a paving operation, a grading operation, an excavating operation, etc.)
    • Develop a strategy to: (1) control, minimize or eliminate those injury hazards; and (2) reduce the risk of employee exposure to bloodborne pathogens when accidents and injuries occur.
  • Strategies used by many contractors include:
  • Designate and train a person to be the “first responder” in handling emergency situations on the jobsite;
  • Train employees on how to respond to accidents and injuries;
  • Provide ready access to personal protective equipment on the jobsite including: gloves, eye protection such as goggles or glasses with side shields, resuscitation mouth pieces and first aid kits;
  • Routinely inspect, maintain and re-stock personal protective equipment and document your actions;
  • Routine and regular jobsite housekeeping;
  • Administer the hepatitis B vaccine to employees with the potential for exposure;
  • Arrange for a physician’s post-exposure evaluation (follow-up medical care) to any employee exposed to bloodborne pathogens;
  • Designate an area or areas on the jobsite for employees to eat and take breaks away from the hazard areas;
  • Provide antibacterial cleansers, soap, and where possible, hand washing areas on the jobsite; and
  • Provide red plastic bags (labeled “biohazard”) to store contaminated clothing and bandages should an accident occur.

The potential exists every day for exposure to a bloodborne pathogen on a construction jobsite. Plan for the possibility and protect yourself and your co-workers.

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Tire Safety

In construction, we work with, and around, rubber-wheeled equipment all the time. Properly maintained tires improve vehicle handling, fuel economy, the load-carrying capability of your vehicle or equipment and increase the life of your tires.

The most important things you can do to avoid tire failure, such as tread separation, blowouts and flat tires, is to maintain proper tire pressure, observe tire and vehicle load limits, avoid road hazards and inspect your tires.

Use the checklist below to ensure your tires provide their best ride:

  • Inspect tires daily for uneven wear patterns, cracks, cuts, slashes, foreign objects or other signs of wear or trauma. Remove bits of glass and other foreign objects wedged in the tread.
  • Use a tire pressure gauge to check the tire pressure at least once a month. Do this when the tire is cold (meaning the tire has been still for at least three hours). You can find the manufacturer-recommended tire pressure information on the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or in the vehicle owner’s manual. Improper tire pressure can lead to uneven wear, making the tire less effective when stopping or turning, which may cause collisions, sliding and/or stability problems.
  • Check the tire tread depth at the same time you check the tire pressure. In general, tires are not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to one-eighth of an inch.
  • Make sure the tires are properly balanced. This adjustment maximizes the life of your tires and prevents your vehicle from veering to the right or left when driving on a straight, level road.
  • Do not overload your vehicle. Check the tire information placard or owner’s manual for the maximum recommended load for your vehicle.
  • If you are towing a trailer, remember that some of the weight of the loaded trailer is transferred to the towing vehicle.
  • Slow down if you have to go over a pothole or other object in the road.
  • Do not run over curbs, and try not to strike the curb when parking.

Remember to do your part: be tire smart.

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Driving on Snow and Ice

Originally published 01/20/2016

The best advice for driving on snow and ice is to avoid it if you can. If you can’t, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is prepared, and that you know how to handle the road conditions. The following tips will help make your drive safer on snow and ice.

Driving safely on icy roads:

  • Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding.
  • Turn on your lights so that other drivers can see you.
  • Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  • Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads. These areas will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas.
  • Don’t pass snow plows and sand trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind them.
  • Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your vehicle starts to skid:

  • Remain calm.
  • Take your foot off the accelerator.
  • If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes, do not pump them, but apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse; this is normal.
  • Steer to safety.

If you get stuck:

  • Use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out.
  • Don’t spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  • You may want to try rocking the vehicle. Give a light touch on the gas pedal and then release it. Repeating this action will start a rocking motion and could free your vehicle.
  • If necessary, use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the vehicle.
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels to increase traction.

Keep in mind that winter brings adverse weather conditions. Be prepared to operate your vehicle in a defensive manner, and watch out for other vehicles on the road. Driving on snow and ice can be tricky, but can be done safely. Remember: Think safety and act safely.

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