Thriving in the construction industry means being able to anticipate and manage risk. By its nature, construction means working outdoors, in environments that have not yet been tamed. Being able to manage demand on workers, and cope with seasonal changes, can often make the difference between a successful project and a not-so-successful one.
Why Is Summer Risky?
You might think of winter-time as risky for those in the construction industry. After all, it’s at this time of the year that you’ll be dealing with darkness, ice and rain.
Summer heat waves can pose risks of a different kind, however. Extreme heat can take a toll on workers, making the actual work more physically laborious. On the other hand, materials can be affected by changes in temperature.
Bricks can become brittle, concrete can dry out too quickly, and paintwork can discolour when left in direct, harsh sunlight.
What Every Construction Business Contractor Should Do
Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to anticipate and avoid these, and other, risks.
Keep Everyone Hydrated
If you’re toiling beneath the midday sun, it can be easy to work up a sweat. This can quickly lead to dehydration, much like any other form of exercise. This, in turn, can lead to a drop in productivity, and health-related problems.
Make bottled water available, and insist that workers take advantage of it. Encourage workers to drink water frequently throughout the day, even if they don’t feel thirsty, to maintain proper hydration levels.
Educate them about the signs of dehydration and heat-related illnesses, such as dizziness, fatigue, and cramps, so they can recognize the symptoms early on.
If you’re exposed to sunlight throughout the day, it’s important to be able to take regular breaks. This might mean providing shelter. Just a minute’s rest, taken occasionally, can often spell the difference between exhaustion and good performance.
Set up shaded areas or temporary structures on the construction site where workers can take refuge during breaks and seek respite from the sun. Equip these areas with seating and adequate ventilation to ensure comfort.
Consider utilizing portable fans or misting systems to further cool the sheltered spaces.
By taking our specialised builder’s insurance, you’ll cover yourself against a variety of risk factors that are particular to the construction industry. This means damage to materials, injury to workers, and a range of other costs that might otherwise be very debilitating.
Consult with an insurance expert who understands the construction industry to assess the specific risks associated with your projects and obtain comprehensive coverage. Ensure that your insurance policy includes coverage for heat-related illnesses, accidents due to extreme temperatures, and damage caused by summer weather conditions.
Ease Into It
New workers who aren’t used to hot conditions might need to pace themselves, especially if they’ve just come into a hot country from a cold one. Provide a period of adjustment, where performance targets aren’t as stringent, to ease these workers into the practice of high-temperature construction.
Implement a gradual acclimatization program for new workers or those who are transitioning from cooler climates. Start them with shorter shifts or reduced physical exertion during the initial days to allow their bodies to adjust to the heat gradually.
Increase workload and performance expectations gradually over time as they become accustomed to working in high temperatures.
Take a Siesta
In hot countries in the south Mediterranean, like Spain, they’ve developed a way of dealing with high temperatures at midday, and that’s to split the day into two – with a nap in the middle. By mimicking these practices, you’ll avoid the worst of the heat, without compromising on the overall length of the working day.
Consult your workers on whether this arrangement would be appreciated! Consider implementing a midday break or “siesta” during the hottest hours of the day to allow workers to rest, recharge, and escape the intense heat.
This break can be used for a nap, relaxation, or other low-energy activities. Discuss this approach with your workers and seek their input on the timing and duration of the siesta.
Implement Safety Training Programs
Construction sites are inherently dangerous, and summer brings its own set of risks. To mitigate these risks, contractors should prioritize safety training programs.
Ensure that all workers receive comprehensive training on summer-specific hazards, such as heat-related illnesses, sun exposure, and handling equipment in high temperatures.
Emphasize the importance of using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as sunscreen, hats, and lightweight clothing.
Conduct regular safety meetings to reinforce safe work practices and encourage open communication about any concerns or near-miss incidents.
Monitor Weather Conditions
Summer weather can be unpredictable, with sudden storms and extreme heatwaves posing risks to construction projects. Project managers should closely monitor weather conditions and have contingency plans in place.
Establish a system for regular weather updates and communicate them to the entire workforce. Extreme heat guidelines should be implemented, specifying work hour restrictions, frequent breaks, and shaded rest areas.
In the case of severe weather, such as thunderstorms or high winds, workers should be evacuated from exposed areas and directed to safe locations until conditions improve.
Conduct Regular Equipment Maintenance
Heavy machinery and equipment are vital in construction, but they can also become hazards if not properly maintained. In the summer, high temperatures and humidity can accelerate wear and tear on equipment, increasing the risk of malfunctions or breakdowns.
To prevent accidents and delays, contractors should establish a rigorous equipment maintenance schedule. Regularly inspect and service machinery to ensure proper functioning and identify any potential issues.
Pay particular attention to cooling systems, electrical components, and lubrication points. Adequate lubrication and filter replacements are crucial for preventing overheating and machinery failures.
Implement Traffic Control Measures
Summer construction often involves roadwork and increased vehicular traffic, posing significant risks to workers on and around construction sites. Contractors should implement effective traffic control measures to protect workers and maintain smooth traffic flow.
Establish clear signage, barriers, and cones to direct vehicles safely through work zones. Implement speed reduction measures and enforce strict adherence to traffic rules within the construction area.
Designate separate pedestrian walkways and ensure proper lighting to enhance visibility. Regularly review and update traffic control plans based on project progress and changes in traffic patterns.