Summer Heat – Perspiration Control for Construction Workers
A heat wave can be deadly. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that, for the period 1979 – 2003, excessive heat exposure caused 8,015 deaths in the United States, which is an average of 276 deaths a year from excessive heat. In the summer heat, sweating may not be able to cool the body since high relative humidity may retard evaporation.
In the summer, construction workers often can be seen going shirtless; however, to combat heat, going shirtless may not be the best solution. Instead, workers should concentrate on perspiration management. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the National Weather Service (NWS), and the online magazine, Contractor Tools and Supplies, have jointly developed recommendations to help construction workers manage summertime heat.
Pick the Best Times to Work
Strenuous activities should be reduced, eliminated, or rescheduled to the coolest time of the day. Individuals at risk should stay in the coolest available place, not necessarily indoors. For construction activities, this means working either earlier in the day, or later, to avoid the hottest periods of the day. Workers should also get out of the direct sun periodically to a cooler place, and not get too much sun. Sunburn makes the job of heat dissipation that much more difficult.
Wear the Best Clothes
Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat and sunlight, and helps the body maintain normal temperatures. When a worker puts on a shirt, after going without one while working in the sun, it initially seems hotter. The reason behind this is because while shirtless, perspiration was continually being evaporated; however, when the worker puts on a shirt, the air circulation is restricted. The real key to staying cooler is to wear a loose fitting shirt that doesn’t restrict air circulation, but which doesn’t create a job hazard, such as while using tools.
Although cotton blue jeans are probably the most used pants by construction workers, they may not be the best choice. An alternative choice is poly/cotton twill work pants because these fabrics will aid in evaporating perspiration, which is the key to staying cooler. Workers should try work clothes that are a 65/35 blend of poly and cotton with a loose cut that allows freedom of movement and room to let air circulate. A lightweight, poly/cotton button-front work shirt, which is sized to give freedom of movement and promote air circulation; again with the goal of managing perspiration to keep cool, should be considered.
Eat and Drink Properly
Drinking alcoholic beverages or taking salt tablets, unless specified by a physician, is not recommended. Drinking plenty of water or other non-alcohol fluids, which the body needs to keep cool, even if a worker doesn’t feel thirsty, is recommended. Workers who (1) have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease; (2) are on fluid restrictive diets; or (3) have a problem with fluid retention should consult a physician before increasing their consumption of fluids. Eating less with the understanding that foods (and associated proteins), which increase metabolic heat production, also increase water loss, will also help to control perspiration.
During summer heat, workers should –
- Work early or late in the day – sunburn negatively affects evaporation of perspiration.
- Wear loose fitting shirt and pants – a 65/35 blend of poly and cotton aids perspiration evaporation.
- Eat and drink properly – eat less, drink water, and don’t take salt tablets.