Recognizing Signs of Heat Exhaustion On The Construction Job Site

For outdoor workers in the construction industry, the warm months can be the most challenging times of the year. High temperatures and increased humidity can make the environment unbearable if an employee is not hydrated or protected from the sun.

Heat exhaustion is one of the most common medical conditions for supervisors and workers on a construction crew, and prevention is the best weapon you can have against it. However, that’s not always possible. Here are some tips for both recognizing and preventing heat exhaustion.

The Types of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused by lack of water and salt in the body and occurs when people are heavily sweating in conditions of extreme heat, without adequate fluid and salt replacement. Heat exhaustion covers a broad range of medical conditions, but the three most common are:

  • Heat Cramps: After prolonged exposure to the heat and sun, you can develop excruciating pain in your legs, arms or lower back. Heat cramps are muscle spasms that can last for several minutes if you’re not immediately hydrated and allowed to rest. 
  • Heat Rash: An irritating rash can develop when your skin’s sweat ducts become clogged and trap perspiration under your sin. Heat rash can cause an itching or stinging sensation and red bumps to form.
  • Heatstroke: The most severe and deadly type of heat exhaustion is heatstroke. It occurs more often to workers exposed to the sun for long periods without rest. Symptoms include a fever over 104°F, a lack of sweat and hot, dry skin. Heatstroke can cause organ failure or death if you’re unable to get cool and seek shelter.

The Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a terrifying condition that affects thousands of outdoor workers every year, but it’s preventable. Workers and supervisors should be on the lookout for any of these signs of exhaustion:

  • Headache
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weak pulse
  • Moist, cool skin
  • Fatigue

Some workers may not feel symptoms for several hours, while others may exhibit signs all at once in a brief period.

The Treatment for Heat Exhaustion

If you notice signs of exhaustion from a coworker, OSHA recommends that you should immediately move them to an air-conditioned room or sheltered area, and try cooling techniques. Give them cool drinking water, loosen their clothing and lay them down with their legs elevated. Ice and fans can help cool them off quickly if they’re available. Place ice or cold packs on their head, armpits, groin, neck and head. If symptoms do not improve after 60 minutes, call a doctor for professional treatment.

Contact the Safety Experts

When you need premium construction safety training and consulting, you can rely on the expertise of Construction Safety Experts. We offer basic and advanced safety services customized to meet your company’s specific safety needs. Our experienced safety professionals will evaluate your current safety program and provide consultation to enable your organization to achieve the next level of safety.

Contact us online, or call our team directly at (919) 463-0669 today!