The Right Equipment Keeps Construction Workers Safe

The right equipment minimizes the effects of heat, and can help prevent other illnesses or injuries.
By Matt King
October 11, 2022

In the workplace safety space, construction is recognized as one of the more dangerous industries for workers. In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that “workers in transportation and material moving occupations and construction and extraction occupations accounted for nearly half of all fatal occupational injuries [in 2020].”

On top of the jobsite risks construction workers face each day, it’s also important for those in the construction industry to remain mindful of overall worker health and wellbeing. The American Heart Association reports that one out of four construction workers are obese, nearly half of all construction workers don’t get enough exercise, and 1 out of 25 construction workers have diabetes.

When you add record-breaking heat to the mix, like that seen around the globe this past summer, construction workers suddenly find themselves facing extreme dangers each day that they go to work. High temperatures can dramatically exacerbate the pre-existing health and safety risks faced by those in construction by, among other things, increasing the risk of heart attack, fainting and heat stroke.

There’s a long list of steps the construction industry can take to help protect its workers against injury and illness, but perhaps one of the easiest ways to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of construction workers is to provide them with the right protective equipment for the job—and the conditions—at hand. Today, that often means identifying gear that can be worn comfortably and safely when working under direct sunlight or in high-heat environments. Not only can the right equipment minimize the effects of the sun’s heat, but it can help prevent other illnesses or injuries caused or exacerbated by the strains of working under high temperatures.

Look for the right hard hat features

Falls are the leading cause of workplace injuries for construction workers, making the hard hat one of the most important pieces of equipment on a jobsite. But, when working in particularly high temperatures, a hard hat can actually become a part of the problem. This is because hard hats trap heat inside, raising the wearer’s temperature and potentially leading to heat-related illness or injury. To help minimize the effects of high heat, those in the construction industry should choose hats with a certain set of integrated features.

For high-heat work environments that are free from electrical hazards, construction workers should wear hats with integrated air vents. These air vents reduce the amount of heat trapped inside a hard hat by allowing for increased air flow around the wearer’s head.

Workers should also opt for lighter colored hats. Studies have shown that lighter hats—white ones, in particular—stay the coolest, while darker hats typically retain more heat.

When working in direct sunlight, a hard hat with a wide brim offers additional shade to the wearer, helping to mitigate the dangerous effects of the sun’s rays.

Add accessories to improve the heat-safety of a hard hat

Choosing the right hard hat is a critical first step in keeping workers safe, but it’s equally as important to choose hard hat accessories that can help make the hats more comfortable and wearable for workers in high-heat environments.

Such accessories include attachable sunshades and sunshields, which offer shade and sun protection; anti-glare decals, which help to reduce glare from the sunlight; and sweat-wicking brow pads and helmet liners to minimize the build-up of moisture – and the humidity it can cause.

Cooling equipment helps maintain body temperature

Many PPE manufacturers, like Bullard, offer a range of products designed specifically to help workers maintain a healthy and safe body temperature. Such products use phase change material technology to maintain a set temperature—typically a cooler temperature—for an extended period of time.

By wearing cooling products, like vests and neck shades, workers in high-heat environments can help keep their body temperature at a healthy and safe level, thereby reducing the risk of heat-related illness or injury.

Additional steps

Equipping workers with the best protective equipment for their specific jobsite conditions is an essential part of maintaining overall health and safety, but there’s certainly more the construction industry can do to protect their workers.

When it comes to heat safety, construction employers and managers should offer special training to their employees, to help them understand the risks and symptoms of heat illness. Workers should also be educated on what to do if they or one of their colleagues begins to show the symptoms of heat illness. Equipping workers with this knowledge can help to save lives and prevent harm.

Other necessary steps in heat protection include: scheduling hard labor for early in the day, when the temperatures are cooler; allowing plenty of time for breaks and time in the shade; and providing water stations to ensure workers can stay hydrated easily.

by Matt King

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