Stay cool, stay safe this summer

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Summer is a great time for building and landscaping work, or just relaxing with family and friends, but it can present additional health and safety risks.

Here’s a few tips from the team at Site Safe to help you stay safe while making the most of the longer days.

 

Warning signs:

Make sure you know the danger signs to look out for when working in the heat.

If you do overheat, you’ll notice symptoms such as:

Clammy or sweaty skin

Feeling weak or dizzy

Darker coloured urine

Pounding or rapid pulse

Loss of balance, fainting

Headaches

Muscle cramps

Mood changes or confusion

If heat stress or exhaustion is not dealt with quickly, it can progress to heat stroke. At its worst, this can be life-threatening.

Be extra careful when doing these types of work, which make you more likely to suffer heat exhaustion:

Working in confined spaces

Doing underfloor, ceiling or roof work

In cabs of mobile plant

Closed areas with limited air flow

It’s important to protect yourself from the effects of heat by wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, taking breaks and seeking shade.

 

Sun (UV) exposure

It may seem obvious, but it’s an easy one to overlook, and can be fatal given New Zealand’s high rates of skin cancer.

So even though it’s great to enjoy the sunshine while on site, make sure you and your team follow basic sun-smart rules such as covering up, wearing breathable fabrics and a hat, and using a good-quality sunblock.

Safety sunglasses to protect eyes from flying objects and UV rays are also a good idea.

With any sunglasses, always check the impact and UV rating.

 

Dehydration

Your body can overheat when it can’t cool itself through sweating. Anyone building or landscaping in the heat of a summer’s day is at risk of dehydration.

This could be due to working in the direct sun, working near heat-producing processes, or simply from the work you are doing, whether indoors or outside.

The effects of working in heat range from mild discomfort through to life-threatening heat stroke. With that in mind, please consider:

Planning ahead: Try to avoid or limit prolonged exposure to extreme heat, and work in the shade when possible. Ensure there is adequate air flow or ventilation to help keep the temperature down. Wear lightweight clothing if it’s safe to do so, but be sure to comply with your company’s clothing regulations.

Keeping up the fluids: Most people need about eight glasses of water per day, but if you’re working in the heat, it’s likely you will need more.

Make sure you and your crew drink plenty of water throughout the day, and limit sugary or caffeinated drinks.

 

Fatigue

If you’ve been waiting for good weather to get cracking on a job, it can be tempting to push through and extend your working day. But ignoring the signs of fatigue in your workers can be a real risk. Consider the following:

Work scheduling: Take regular breaks and consider extra breaks if the work is demanding. Monitor and place limits around overtime, and avoid incentives to work too many hours.

If you need to work longer hours, consider staggered start and finish times, and longer breaks and periods off work.

Use the right tools and resources for the job. Consider low-vibration hand-held tools and, where practical, install low-vibration seats in machinery. Rotate tasks between workers, and make sure workloads and deadlines are realistic.