How Can Road Construction Crews Stay Out of Heat Stroke Danger?

Heat stroke is a risk in all forms of construction, but it’s elevated for road construction workers. The job involves bursts of heavy labor, and if construction is being done during the day, there may not be shade nearby. On major highways, the nearest source of shade may be across several high speed lanes of traffic. For these workers, it may seem like there’s no escape from the sun.

During the paving process, heat is more of a concern, as asphalt is applied at temperatures of 200 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. That’s a lot of radiant energy, exposing construction crews to elevated temperatures.

Road construction workers need protection from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If not treated promptly, heat stroke can lead to long-term disability or death, so prevention is critical. To do that, construction sites need the right processes and the right equipment.

Keep an Eye on the Thermometer

The first step in preventing heat illness is knowing when the heat is too much. Every worksite should monitor temperature constantly, and be ready to take measures when the heat index is elevated. The more people watching the temperature, the better, as preventing heat illness should be everyone’s goal, from supervisors to the crew. It’s especially important that workers know the temperature, as they are usually the first to notice signs of heat illness in other workers.

Heat cards are an ideal way for everyone at the site to monitor the temperature. Heat cards are embedded with thermochromic liquid crystals, or LCs, and these crystals alter their orientation as the temperature rises and falls. This causes them to change color, and they are accurate within a single degree Fahrenheit. Heat cards allow for temperature monitoring on demand at a glance, and they can also be printed with company branding, reference information or emergency contacts. This can be lifesaving if a worker is found debilitated by heat stroke and cannot be easily moved.

Information is Critical

Many companies are integrating heat illness prevention into their occupational safety programs, and a major part of these programs is information. It’s essential that everyone know what the company’s processes are regarding heat illness prevention, risk reduction and what to do in the event of an emergency.

Efforts in informing an entire workforce should be multifaceted. Verbal instruction and training are important, but so are reminders. Some construction sites pass on safety policies but fail to reinforce them, which leads to lapses in safety. A simple solution to this is posting signage around the worksite that provides critical safety information.

As long as workers know how to prevent heat illness, doing so is easy. Calculating the heat index, gauging fluid intake and scheduling rest breaks are effective at preventing heat stroke. Informational signage and heat cards can help remind workers to do all three.

There’s Safety in the Shade

The chances of heat stroke elevate when workers are directly exposed to the sun, and road construction workers are exposed to the sun for long stretches of time. There’s no getting away from it in some cases, and it’s impossible for people to cool down if they can’t. What’s worse, if shade is available, it may only be available for a short time, and that shaded area recently exposed to the sun will still be radiating heat.

Construction workers can avoid this problem by setting up tents on the jobsite. Tents are simple, yet perfect solutions to the no-shade problem, as long as companies select the right tent. In this case, the right tent is one that’s built with a metal frame, and preferably a heavy duty, aluminum frame. Aluminum is light, so it’s easy to carry and maneuver, and it’s corrosion resistant, so it can handle exposure to weather and air that’s heavy with salt.

Tents can be set up quickly and moved as needed, so as work shifts to another section of the road, the tents can be broken down and moved easily. Tents can also be kept in one spot throughout the day, and that keeps it cooler. Some tents come with walls, too, and this can insulate the inside from the heat outside. Combine the tent with a powerful fan, set up a hydration station inside, and workers have a place they can retreat to for rapid cooling.

Road construction crews are constantly challenged by heat stress, whether it comes from the environment, from exertion or from heated paving materials. Construction companies, their management and their crews must be aware of these heat risks at all times, as they can lead to debilitating heat exhaustion and potentially deadly heat stroke. With the right equipment and processes, though, it’s possible to stay on top of heat-related hazards and ensure workers are protected from heat stroke.