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Construction workers especially at risk for suffering heat-related illnesses

New York City has been in the midst of a summer heat wave with air temperatures rising into the 90s and high humidity levels pushing heat indexes in excess of 100 degrees. As city officials urge residents to drink plenty of water, get into air-conditioned buildings and limit outdoor and strenuous activities; it’s been business as usual for many construction workers.

On a daily basis, New York City construction workers must engage in many physically-demanding activities. In cases where outdoor temperatures soar to dangerous levels, construction employers are advised to take steps to keep workers safe and workers are advised to watch out for signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, signs that a worker may be suffering from heat exhaustion include profuse sweating, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramping and vomiting. Additionally, symptoms commonly experienced by a worker who suffers heat stroke include skin that is red, hot and dry to the touch as well as confusion, fainting and convulsions.

Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be dangerous and result in a worker suffering harm, injury and even death. To keep workers safe and healthy, construction employers would be wise to provide workers with the following on hot days:

  • Extra water
  • Shade
  • Extra breaks and periods of rest
  • Light-colored protective clothing and headgear

In cases where a construction worker exhibits symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, it's crucial that everyone on a work site is trained in how to appropriately respond. A heat-related emergency preparedness plan should be in place that includes specific directives on how to alert, communicate and respond if a worker suffers a heat-related illness or emergency.

Source: OSHA.org, "Health effects of heat," Aug. 5, 2015

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