Construction worker Blues: How Heat-Related Illnesses Can Hurt Anyone

Construction worker Blues: How Heat-Related Illnesses Can Hurt Anyone

Summer is not only the hottest season, but the time when construction begins. With the rising temperatures, construction workers may become too busy to take an extra break to get out of the sun and hydrate. Teaching employees how to spot when a coworker is suffering from any heat-related illness can be vital to prevent serious injuries or death.

Heat Exhaustion Signs & Symptoms

Heat exhaustion can occur after being exposed to high temperatures that is accompanied by dehydration. There are two different types of heat exhaustion: water depletion and salt depletion. Water depletion includes symptoms of excessive thirst, weakness, headache and a loss of consciousness. Salt depletion includes nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps and dizziness. Although heat exhaustion isn’t as serious as heat stroke, it can still progress into it without proper care. Some other symptoms include confusion, pale skin and profuse sweating. Drinking plenty of fluids and getting out of the heat is essential to help provide relief for this heat-related illness, especially for construction workers.

Heat Stroke Signs & Symptoms

Heat stroke is the most serious form of any type of heat-related illness and is considered to be a medical emergency. It can kill or cause severe damage to the brain and other internal organs. Heat stroke results from prolonged exposure to high temperatures, in combination with dehydration, which leads to the failure of the body’s temperature control system. The major symptom of a heat stroke is the body temperature being above 105 degrees. Some other symptoms may include a throbbing headache, red, hot, dry skin, rapid and shallow breathing, staggering and/or seizures. Calling 911 or transporting the person who may have suffered from a heat stroke is the first step. While waiting for medical attention, initiate first aid by moving the person to an air-conditioned room or shady area and remove any unnecessary clothing. Fanning the person while wetting their skin with water or applying ice packs to the armpits, groin, neck and back are cooling techniques to help bring the body temperature down. This can be a difficult step for construction workers if they are working on an interstate and have no options to bring a body core temperature down. Turning the air conditioning on full blast in a vehicle while getting rid of any sunlight is the easiest way to cool down the body.

How to Prevent Illnesses and Fatalities

Construction workers are exposed to hot and humid conditions and are at risk of any heat-related illness, especially those who are involved in heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. New or temporary construction workers have a greater risk of contracting a heat-related illness than those who have a tolerance built up. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water is recommended to prevent dehydration but substituting an electrolyte-rich sports drink for water can be an easy way to prevent salt depletion. Construction workers shouldn’t push themselves too much the first few days if they are trying to get back into the swing of things. Employers who watch the heat index each day will have better opportunities to plan additional precautions for their employees working in harsh conditions.

It’s important for employers and employees alike to learn the signs of any heat-related illness, so everyone has the ability to help out. For more information on heat illnesses, visit