By Lonnie Fritz, Market Professional—Construction Industries, Caterpillar Inc.
After a long, cold winter across much of the country, many of us are looking forward to the summer heat – and to the additional work the season generally brings to the construction industry. But as you and your team gear up to spend long hours in the sun, it pays to invest in some heat-specific safety training first. These tips will help your employees and your equipment enjoy a cool, safe and productive summer.
Know the signs of heat illness
Heat-related illness can lead to severe complications or even death if not treated quickly. Make sure your team is trained to recognize the symptoms of these progressively more dangerous conditions:
• Heat cramps: excessive sweating, fatigue, thirst and cramps in the stomach, arms or legs
• Heat exhaustion: fatigue, disorientation, nausea, headache, rapid heart rate and moist, clammy skin
• Heat stroke: elevated body temperature, loss of consciousness, convulsions, vomiting and diarrhea
Know how to treat it
People suffering from heat illness don’t always know it’s happening, so urge your team to look out for one another – particularly anyone 65 or older, overweight or on medication. If you see someone with symptoms, alert a supervisor and call 911 if needed. Move affected individuals to the air-conditioning or shade, lay them down, elevate their feet, remove tight or heavy clothing and provide water to drink.
Know how to prevent it
Three words: water, rest and shade. Stock your jobsite with plenty of water and encourage everyone to drink eight ounces per hour. Schedule mandatory breaks and add extras on very hot days. Put up tents or awnings for shade if your jobsite doesn’t have trees or buildings that offer natural relief. You should also:
• Avoid eating heavy, greasy meals during the hottest part of the day
• Put on sunscreen and sunglasses
• Wear lightweight, light-colored, moisture-wicking clothes
• Refrain from going in and out of the air-conditioning
• Listen to your body – tell someone if you feel dizzy or lightheaded and take a break in a cool spot
• Adjust working hours to the coolest part of the day
Pay attention to your machines, too
Rising temperatures cause equipment to work harder, stressing components and accelerating wear. Before you buy, explore cooling package options and choose one that matches your application.
Once your equipment is on site:
• Stay diligent with daily inspections
• Clear debris from radiators, cooling systems and engine hood inlets/outlets
• Use fluids and lubricants in compliance with manufacturer recommendations
• Keep a close eye on temperatures and pressures
• Store machines out of the sun in a dry, sheltered area
Put these common-sense tips to work, and both your team and your fleet will be ready for a healthy, productive summer season on the job.