There’s more to discuss than keeping cool.
Summer poses a double safety whammy: Your construction business is in full swing, which means workers are probably putting in more hours, and the heat of the season is making their work harder.
Here are a few hot topics for your summer safety meetings or toolbox talks.
Staying hydrated and cool. Remind workers to drink every 15 or 20 minutes on hot days, whether they are thirsty or not. Hydration helps prevent heat illness. Water is best; beverages that contain caffeine, including energy drinks and many sodas, actually pull fluid from the body. Workers should also take scheduled breaks in the shade and watch for signs of heat illness in themselves and others.
Protecting the skin. Long-term exposure to the sun can damage workers’ skin and put them at increased risk of skin cancer. Workers should use a broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen (apply every two hours), wear tightly woven, light colored, loose fitting clothing, and protect the back of their neck with a cloth flap that attaches to their helmet.
Keeping the jobsite neat. When everyone’s focused on getting as much work done as possible, it’s easy to overlook good housekeeping practices. But workers can trip when packaging material is left lying around or get hurt when poorly stacked wood comes tumbling down on their feet. Avoid those injuries by keeping the jobsite clean and organized.
Cellphone safety. Summertime can be playtime once your workers are done for the day. While they may want to make plans as they’re working, remind them of your company’s cell phone policy; a moment of distraction can have serious consequences. Throw in a reminder about the dangers of making calls while driving.
Maintaining 360° awareness. A large, busy jobsite can have multiple pieces of equipment working at the same time, opening the door to injuries if operators and workers on foot aren’t careful. Remind operators of best practices to avoid backovers, and emphasize to other workers how to remain aware of vehicles and behave safely around them.
Wearing PPE. When the weather’s hot, workers may be tempted to remove their hard hats, lose the safety googles and skip other personal protective equipment. Provide a few examples of why it’s important to suit up even when the sun is beating down. Also, consider supplying PPE designed to help keep workers cool.
Storing hard hats and equipment. Leaving hard hats in the sun — such as in the back seat of a car — can damage the shell and make it brittle. Sunlight can even damage equipment (its electronics, seals, exposed rubber parts and plastic assemblies). If equipment needs to be stored outside, remind workers to cover it with tarps or at least park it in the shade when the work is done.
Bites and stings. Go over steps workers can take to avoid bites and stings and also protect themselves against the ticks that can carry Lyme disease if your projects involve working near woods, grassy fields or bushes. For example, they should tuck their pants in their socks or boots, consider using tick repellant and perform tick checks. Young ticks are most active in late spring and summer.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.