Construction work is most often an outdoor job, and as such it is seasonal. The winter poses its own set of hazards, such as slipping and cold, while spring and fall also can have a lot of rain and unpredictable weather. But some of the most dangerous weather for construction contractors, especially in the South and Southwest, happens in summer. Yes there have been -and will be more- severe storms in Texas. Yes, there is the risk of flooding. Of course, there are also tornados. Finally, big storms and hurricanes can bring lightning, dangerous winds, and hail, several more potentially fatal weather phenomenons. Oh, and there’s also the threat of wildfires and drought. Read more about the general summer dangers in Texas and how to avoid them here.
The main threat in Texas, and most of the South and Southwest, is the heat. Other storms and summer threats can sometimes be predicted and avoided…but the heat, well, it’s inescapable.
What dangers does the heat pose?
In Texas, summer is dominated by the sun. The sun and heat/humidity don’t just make it uncomfortable to be outside, they can be downright life-threatening. Heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are all major risks for anyone spending significant time outdoors in the summer. The following is a list of heat related symptoms that any commercial contractor working in the summer should be aware of.
- Heat Rash: Also called millaria and prickly heat, heat rash appears as small red bumps on the skin. Sometimes the lumps can become deeper, redder, and much larger. It can sometimes feel prickly/itchy, with varying intensity. In adults, heat rash often appears on the upper arms. Heat rash is caused by sweat pores being blocked.
- Heat cramps: Short, painful muscle cramps or spasms. Heat cramps may begin during intense work/exercise in a hot environment, or a few hours later. They often happen to work-related musculature; often the calves, shoulders, and thighs. They are caused by intense work in a hot environment, and not drinking enough liquids during that time that have salt.
- Heat exhaustion: Usually with heat rash and cramps as a precursor, heat exhaustion is the condition of the human body overheating. Causes are exposure to high temperatures, usually paired with high humidity and strenuous physical activity. Ignored, it can lead to heatstroke, which is potentially fatal. Symptoms may include:
- Heavy sweating
- Skin being cool, moist, and covered in goosebumps
- Weak but fast pulse
- Muscle Cramps
- Heat Stroke: When heat exhaustion goes untreated, it can lead to heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body rises to 104° F (40° C) or higher, and does not immediately get treated. It can result in damage to various organs, including the heart, brain, kidneys, and various muscles. The damage to the body worsens as treatment is withheld, ultimately resulting in death. Symptoms may include:
- Altered state of mind/behavior
- Extreme nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin
- Body temperature above 104° F
- Skin may be dry or slightly moist (as opposed to profuse sweating)
- Shallow hyperventilation
- Rapid, shallow pulse (just like heat exhaustion)
- Throbbing headache.
What can contractors do to beat the heat?
Staying hydrated is the best way to stay healthy doing any exercise or working in a hot environment. In general, (based on average body size), men need about 3.7 liters (about 125 ounces) and women need 2.7 liters (around 91 ounces). During the kind of heavy lifting construction requires, it’s good to drink about 1/3 to ½ more water per day. Make sure to lay off the sugary and caffeinated beverages, as they have a diuretic effect. Finally, have some saline tablets or liquids with electrolytes, to prevent heat cramping and ensure salt lost from sweat is replaced.
Watch out for the warning signs of heat induced illness, and have a plan
Train your contractors and supervisors (as well as yourself) on the symptoms listed above.
- If you notice any related to heat exhaustion/heat stroke, then seek immediate professional medical attention for that worker.
- Have someone trained in first aid on site.
- Have at least one air-conditioned area where people can cool off while waiting for emergency responders to arrive.
- Know the fastest way to get your workers to a hospital.
- Have at least one refrigerated unit on the site with ice, cold water, and cool cloths.
Have a shady spot where your workers can take a break. Keeping out of constant direct sun will help prevent heat rash, and other heat-related symptoms, as well as improve morale and comfort. A good idea to encourage people to use rest/shade is to have designated break times for the crew/crews. A couple of air-conditioned trailers on site can do wonders to ensure people stay comfortable, cool, and healthy.
Start earlier or later
Working in the cool morning hours or evening hours lets your crew avoid the direct sun. If the work can be done in the dark, or with artificial light perhaps an overnight shift will help get the job done. The cool hours of the early morning are also a great time to get started working, so hopefully work finishes right around the time when the sun becomes most direct.
Complete your project while staying cool
If you’ve got a late-summer project you want to get started, then you are in the right place. Reliable Commercial Construction can do your industrial, commercial, and retail building. We also do renovation, remodeling, construction management, foundation, and paving. Our team has over 35 years of experience working in Texas, so we definitely know how to beat the heat. If summer time feels like the right time to get your project off the ground, then let us know today so we can get started. Stay cool out there.