More construction workers are injured in August than in any other month of the year, according to data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We can point to two likely culprits: one, there are more construction projects happening in the summertime. More work needing to be done means more workers, which means more workers at risk of being injured.

However, it’s not just about more workers getting injured; workers are also more likely to get injured. And that’s because of the second culprit: summer heat.

August is the hottest month of the year, and construction is physically demanding work, making construction workers more likely to experience heat-related illnesses and accidents. The study further showed that most construction fatalities occurred between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., with the peak occurring at noon, when the sun is directly overhead and at its hottest.

How Heat Causes Accidents

Heat stress can cause serious illness (fatal, if untreated), and the symptoms of heat stress can also make workers more likely to become injured in accidents.

For example, sweaty palms can make it more difficult to safely grasp tools, while high humidity can fog up safety glasses, making it harder for construction workers to safely see what they are doing.

Heat stress can also cause confusion/impaired thinking and slowed reaction times. Both of these can increase a worker’s risk of accidentally injuring themselves or others on the worksite.

In addition, dizziness and fainting can also occur as a result of heat-related illness, which put workers at serious risk of slipping, tripping, or falling. Falls are one of the most common causes of injuries on worksites, and the number one cause of death on construction sites. Over 40% of all construction deaths are the result of falls.

How to Identify Heat Stress

It’s important to know how to recognize signs of heat stress so that they can be treated before they become dangerous. Symptoms of heat-related illness often include the following:

  • Sudden rash
  • Excessive sweating
  • Skin becomes cold and clammy, then hot and dry
  • Cramps or muscle spasms
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, nausea, and/or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid pulse
  • Loss of consciousness

The people most likely to suffer heat stress are workers who aren’t used to working in high heat, and those who have worked in high heat previously but have not been exposed to working in high heat recently. Acclimatization can be lost in just a few days away from work! These workers should be gradually reintroduced to extreme heat to allow their bodies a chance to acclimate or reacclimate to the conditions.

Construction employers can use “buddy systems” and help make workers aware of heat stress symptoms so they can look out for the warning signs in their fellow workers.

Construction Companies Have a Legal Duty to Their Workers

Construction companies must provide a safe environment for their workers, and that includes protecting them from heat-related illnesses and injuries.

This means when workers are required to work in high heat or humidity and at high risk of heat stress, they should be given plenty of water and frequent breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas. Work should be scheduled for the cooler hours of the day, and extra workers should be added so that work can continue whenever a worker needs to rest.

Workers should also be provided the proper safety equipment, especially fall-arresting equipment. Doing so can save lives if workers fall due to suffering from heat-related symptoms.

Construction companies who fail to provide workers with a safe work environment can be held liable for injuries and deaths that result.

Joye Law Firm Stands Up for Injured Construction Workers

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries, and workers deserve to know that the companies they work for have their best interests at heart. That means not forcing them to work in dangerously high heat without appropriate breaks or failing to provide them with necessary safety equipment.

If you or someone you love was injured or killed in a construction accident that could and should have been prevented, you deserve compensation. Contact our firm today to learn how we can help.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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