The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation for employers and their employees. Because of the fact that 4,500 workers die on the job each year in the U.S., these regulatory agencies provide guidelines for the protection of laborers.
With roofing jobs, the risk for injuries and heat related illness is statistically high, as are other positions in the construction industry. OSHA’s stats from 2014 show that 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job. Denver roofers are especially susceptible to heat with the high elevation and 300 plus days of sunshine for the Front Range area.
In every state, all roofing companies have to protect their workers, and the following post from OSHA offers some tips for managing this issue:
OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers | Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep this in mind and plan additional precautions for working in these conditions.
Any worker exposed to hot and humid conditions is at risk of heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, including new workers, temporary workers, or those returning to work after a week or more off. All workers are at risk during a heat wave.
This video outlines the four types of occupational heat exposure:
- Heat stroke
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat Cramps
- Heat Rash
One benefit of working construction in the Denver metro area is that the air is dry, because humid climates have a higher probability of heat related issues. The ways to avoid any problems are being properly hydrated, taking breaks, and avoiding being in the direct sun as much as possible. Many people begin having symptoms such as red, flushed, dry skin followed by nausea, headache, and dizziness.
This video is by a construction company in Wisconsin, outlining the signs of heat illness:
Knowing the signs of heat exhaustion is just part of the battle. Coaching your staff on best practices when the weather is hot and humid will prepare them for the hottest days. Watching the local weather forecast online or on TV can be beneficial in planning ahead.
Another key tip is to not drink alcohol before or during work and stay away from drinks that have caffeine. The following post provides pointers for managing the heat:
Tips to Help Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses on the Roof – GAF Blog
To help avoid heat-related problems, make sure you have these countermeasures ready:
- Allow for breaks in air-conditioned areas. If AC is not available, find shade, cooler areas, and/or fans.
- Drink plenty of decaffeinated drinks. Sports drinks such as Gatorade are preferred, as they will replenish lost electrolytes.
- Drink up to 10 8-oz. cups of water in an 8-hour shift. Be careful not to overhydrate.
- Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Thirst is a poor indicator of heat stress.
- Wet your hair, neck, and face as frequently as possible with water or a spray bottle.
Find out more here: Tips to Help Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses on the Roof – GAF Blog
My own experience with having heat exhaustion is that once I got to the place where I should have gotten in the shade, all I could see was black dots behind my eyes and I felt extremely dizzy. Drinking water, getting out of the sun, and getting a damp cloth on my head to cool me down was the key. If you don’t take these measures in time, it can escalate to a heat stroke, which can be fatal.