As the seasons change, so do some of the types of health and safety hazards that you will face on a construction site.
In a previous blog post, Scaffolding Safety for Autumn/Winter, we looked at some of the risks that the colder weather and darker days brought with it such as slippery surfaces, weathering of scaffolding and lower visibility. But now that spring is officially up on us, what hazards should we be more wary of as the things start to heat up for the next few months.
Now that the days are longer, and warmer, you will be exposed to the sun at far higher UV levels and for much longer each day which introduces the risk of sunburn which can lead to skin cancer if you don’t protect yourself.
Even things like mild heat exhaustion can progress into something more serious such as heatstroke if left untreated.When exposed to high temps, high humidity, and performing strenuous work, the body literally cannot get rid of the heat fast enough and if the worker isn’t cooled down, they could sustain serious internal damage.
One of the most important things you can do to avoid harmful sunburn is apply high factor sunscreen every morning before you start work on the construction site and continue to reapply it regularly throughout the day. You can also wear hats with a brim (not instead of PPE such as a hardhat) where possible to protect your face from direct sun.
It’s also very important that you stay hydrated by keeping a bottle of water to hand throughout the day and staying in the shade whenever possible, even if this means taking more regular breaks than usual. Both of these things will help reduce the risk of heatstroke and dehydration.
If you do start to notice that you are feeling lightheaded or your skin is burning up, then immediately inform your site manager and find somewhere cool and quiet to sit and rest.
Signs that you should look out for include: fatigue, dizziness, nausea, headaches and muscle cramps.
During summer, air quality decreases thanks to the reaction that takes place between pollutants and heat/sunlight. Not to mention the introduction of high pollen levels which affects 13 million people in the UK in the form of hay fever.
For the most part, hay fever can be tackled with medication but for those who are more affected, it may be necessary to wear eye and face protection when working outside for long periods of time.
The poor air quality can also have a massive impact on asthma sufferers, so ensure that you have your inhaler with you at all times in case you are affected.
Summer doesn’t only mean dry air, sun exposure and heat, it can also bring with it some very extreme weather such as thunderstorms and torrential rain. Though these are usually few and far between, it is important to be prepared should an extreme weather condition hit because workers should not be onsite if there is thunder and lightening taking place. Make sure that there is a clearly identified shelter area on site and that this is communicated to all workers should there be an extreme change in weather.
It’s always best to check the weather every morning before going onsite so that you are aware well in advance of any potential risks and can put a plan of action in place i.e. changing work hours to fit around the bad weather.
All kinds of wild and wonderful things spring up this time of year including dangerous plants such as poison ivy. Not only is this dangerous for those with any allergies or anyone who comes into physical contact with the plant, but it has further dangers that many are completely unaware of. If poison ivy is burned, anyone who inhales the smoke could literally get the rash in their lungs which quickly become irritated making it difficult to breathe.
This is why it’s important to be aware of the environment that you are working in including the plant life in the surrounding area. Take note of any signs of toxic plants that may present and hazard and take appropriate action to remove the hazard.
Be wary of the fact that heat can cause pressurised cans to build up with pressure and explode so you must not leave aerosol cans in direct sunlight for too long.