I’ll Drink to That

By Contributing Writer,

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Stay Hydrated When It’s Hot

Contributed by Western Specialty Contractors


Summer is a great time for construction work, but can be brutal for painters and construction workers in general. Excessive heat and sun exposure pose significant dangers, such as sunburn, dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Every year, construction workers become ill on the job and some even lose their lives due to heat exposure. Western Specialty Contractors, a St. Louis based masonry and concrete restoration company, manages a heat illness training program and a safety hotline for its employees. They shared some tips for staying hydrated as well how to monitor yourself and your co-workers for heat related illness.

Mostly, drink up. “It is important. particularly during the summer months. that outdoor workers drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration, which is the primary cause of heat cramps and heat exhaustion,” said Cameron Samuel, Assistant Safety Director at Western Specialty Contractors. Cameron has training and experience managing the health and safety of outdoor workers, and he offers the following tips for preventing heat-related illnesses on a construction jobsite:

• Drink water frequently and drink enough water that you never become thirsty. Drink water or other non-caffeinated, electrolytic beverages and make sure that your drinks are always cool, not room temperature. Adding a lemon slice to plain water can make it more drinkable.

• Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural materials such as cotton. Avoid wearing non-breathing synthetic clothing. Wear safety glasses with UV protection, also use sunscreen and wear brimmed hard hats.

• Gradually build up to heavy work. If possible, do the hardest work during the coolest time of the day. Workers who are suddenly exposed to working in a hot environment face additional hazards to their health and safety. New workers and those returning from time away need to be extra careful in making sure they stay hydrated.

• Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity. Move to the shade or a cool area such as an air-conditioned building or car when possible, but try not to go in and out of air conditioning too much as it will make it harder for you to adjust to the heat. Use cooling fans whenever possible.

• Select your lunch carefully. Junk food is high in fat and preservatives and will put a high caloric load on the digestive system. Try eating a bigger breakfast, so you’re not as hungry at lunch. Eat light lunches that include fruits, vegetables, and salads.

• Keep an eye on your co-workers and be alert for signs of heat exhaustion. Early symptoms include lethargy, disorientation, stumbling, dropping tools, slurred speech or unresponsiveness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency requiring a 911 call and immediate cooling.

• Check your urine frequency and color throughout the day. Water intake is adequate when urine is clear or light yellow. When the desire to urinate is less than twice per day and/or you are producing a dark yellow urine, you may be dehydrated.

Family-owned and operated for more than 100 years, Western Specialty Contractors is the nation’s largest specialty contractor in masonry and concrete restoration, waterproofing and specialty roofing. Western offers a nationwide network of expertise that building owners, engineers, architects, and property managers can count on to develop cost-effective, corrective measures that can add years of useful life to a variety of structures.