By Cass Jacoby.
Summer is here and as any roofer knows — so is brutal heat. As temperatures rise, it is more important than ever that we remain vigilant about safety in the hot summer months. While working outside in the sun is inevitable for plenty of construction companies, injuries from heatstroke don’t have to be. Read our five tips on how to beat the heat and keep your employees safe this summer:
Cotney Consulting Group says that while it may be tempting to forgo some of your usual safety measures such as wearing the proper safety gear because they make you hotter, these items are critical to your safety.
It’s also important to use caution when handling tools that have been in the heat as they can cause burns or cause injury if they are wet and slippery. Be sure that all tools are being properly stored in a cool, dry place for safe handling.
Remember to pay close attention to daily temperature on your job sites and the heat indexes which flow from them, as OSHA guidance focuses on the heat index at the work site, not the temperature.
The OSHA Heat Index App for your smart phone: Heat Safety Tool/ Occupational Safety and Health Administration is an excellent tool for ensuring that you are aware of the heat index at any worksite location. Additionally, the app provides you with a list of precautions you should take to protect your employees, a list of symptoms employees will exhibit if they are suffering from heat-related illnesses, and first aid steps to mitigate heat illness. The app is available for Android-based platforms and iPhones and can be downloaded here.
On any sunny day, try to work around the sun, either by getting started earlier before the sun gets too high or, if possible, working on the west side of a sloped roof at the beginning of the day and on the east side later when the sun has changed positions.
Summer roofing safety isn't just about staying cool on sunny days-- it is also about preventing the hazards that come with summer weather. Rain is a huge hindrance for roofers. Slipping and falling is just one reason why roofing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Although the heat is dangerous, working in the rain is also very risky.
On commercial roofs, rain can turn many single-ply membranes into what may seem like an ice-skating rink. While it may be tempting to try and save an hour or two, the risk is not worth it. If the forecast calls for rain or thunderstorms, make sure you have a quick way to shut down for the day.
Heat illnesses can be very insidious in its development and devastating in its results. Annually, many construction workers become ill and even die from heat-related illnesses, which is why it is so important to provide training to educate crews on the hazards of working in extreme heat and humidity.
For example, heatstroke is the most serious form of heat injury. Signs include dizziness, a throbbing headache, confusion, irritability, nausea and vomiting, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, and flushed skin. If a worker is showing signs of heatstroke, they should be taken to a cool area and given water. Proceed to call 911 for immediate medical attention and be sure that you complete an illness report.
Make sure that your employees know how to identify and properly respond to and treat heat illnesses. Reminding the crew to look after one another can mean the difference between life and death when it comes to a heat-related illness.
OSHA's Heat Illness Prevention campaign boils it down to this: "Water, Rest, Shade." Pretty simple, but very effective. If you look at the OSHA - NIOSH heat app, you will see the four risk categories all indicate the necessity of water and shade. In fact, OSHA urges employees to always consider water, rest and shade to protect employees from heat illness.
In an article from the Midwest Roofing Contractors Association (MRCA), Gary Auman suggests building in time for rest, shade and hydration into your schedule. Time should be allotted for roofers to rest in climate-controlled areas and given time to rehydrate. If you have a new crew member who is not used to the heat index of your location, slowly acclimate them to a full workday.
Consider having a heat-illness prevention plan as a safety precaution. You should develop your own heat-illness prevention program with the tools available in order to best protect your employees from heat illnesses and its consequences. Using something like Jobba’s built-in safety checklists, that are readily available in their easy-to-use mobile app, are a great way to kickstart an initiative to prevent heat illness.
At the end of the day, roof safety is about more than just wearing a hard hat -- it is about ensuring the well being of everyone at the jobsite. Taking the time to educate your team on what a heat-illness looks like and having a prevention plan in place is part of having a robust safety plan for your business. Afterall, the key to a fun summer is to have a safe summer!
Cass works as a reporter/writer for RoofersCoffeeShop, MetalCoffeeShop AskARoofer and MetalCoffeeShop. When she isn’t writing about roofs, she is putting her Master degree to work writing about movies and dancing with her plants.