Jun 06, 2022
Acclimatizing Workers for Preservation Work Ensures Best Health
This month’s toolbox tips focus on best pavement preservation practices. Let’s start with the hot topic of keeping workers cool in the pavement maintenance or preservation work zone. Whether your crew is performing a utility patch, chip seal or other non-new construction project today, they’re doing so under the ultraviolet rays of the sun in ambient temperatures higher than the comfortable environment of the work truck that brought them to the job.
While the skid steer bringing mix to a patch and the distributor truck spraying a fog seal have AC as an option—if not as standard equipment—workers will hop out of those climate-controlled operator cabs into the hot, humid work areas that their co-workers are laboring in to accomplish any number of tasks throughout the shift.
Have you prepared for each worker’s heat-illness prevention? Do you know how to recognize when your broom operator is suffering from the shock of going from cool air to sweating to blasting cold air to sweating again?
One of the additions to well-known guidance that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made with its National Emphasis Program (NEP) on heat-illness prevention initiative is to address acclimatization of workers. In plain English, that means you want to protect workers from heat illness by providing access to water, rest and shade, along with training on how to recognize heat exhaustion is coming on.
Now you will also want to bring workers slowly up to full throttle.
If a worker is re-joining the crew after a lengthy winter down-season, he may not be able to succeed at a full shift of high ambient-temperature work. If a worker has been out for family leave, she may not be as able to succeed at a full shift of high ambient-temperature work as she was at the height of 2021’s construction season. Everyone readjusts at the rate their bodies can tolerate, and this is what OSHA wants employers to consider when “acclimatizing” workers.
The bottom line is to watch employees in high-temperature environments, as safety personnel and foremen have been doing forever in our industry. Keep track of new workers who may not take the safety training as seriously as they should and make sure they’re taking needed breaks for water, rest and shade to ensure best health for everyone on the team. OSHA has posters and materials you can share with workers for training here.
Do you need to share this tip to a safety manager or foreman in your organization?