Florida’s summers can be brutally hot and humid, and it’s especially dangerous for those working outdoors in the heat. Construction workers are prime candidates for suffering from a hot Florida day, with those in roofing and road work being at a higher risk. There are many factors at play that lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, both of which are dangerous health conditions. As Florida’s temperatures and humidity rise, it’s important to know how to keep workers safe.
Factors That Lead to Heat-Related Illnesses
There are many factors that put workers at risk of developing heat-related illnesses while on the job. Construction companies and those in supervisory roles need to look for:
- No Time for Heat Acclimation. Those working in a hot environment, such as outdoors in Florida, need time to get acclimated to hot and humid conditions. When the weather slowly warms up over a period of days, the body can adjust and acclimate to higher temperatures. However, if hot temperatures come on quickly, or if a new or returning worker is just starting to work in hot conditions, then heat-related illnesses are much more likely.
- High Humidity. The body cools itself by sweating, and the sweat is evaporated off the skin; this cools the body down. However, Florida’s common high humidity in the rainy season means that sweat is less likely to evaporate. Then, the body can’t cool itself and heat-related illnesses are much more likely.
- Too Much Clothing. Many construction sectors require workers to wear pants, cover their arms, and more. Clothing can hold in heat and restrict sweat evaporation.
- Dehydration. Workers must drink water or sports drinks to replace liquids lost from sweating. Soda, coffee, and alcohol can increase dehydration.
- Health Conditions. Many health conditions and medications increase susceptibility to heat-related illnesses. Different workers will have varying tolerances to heat.
- Supervisors should watch for the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke—thirst, irritability, rash, cramping, lack of sweating, confusion, disorientation, slurred speech, or unconsciousness. Heatstroke is a medical emergency that should involve calling 911 and moving the affected worker somewhere cool and shaded. Supervisors and employees should be trained to recognize the signs of both heat exhaustion and heatstroke.