Working outside in nice warm weather conditions can be a great experience and also can be an added benefit of working on road construction projects as a Traffic Control Person. However, in sunny conditions with rising temperatures, workers need to be aware of the dangers to their bodies when working in heat. Serious health issues can result from exposure to UV rays, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat stress and sunburned skin.
When skin is exposed to the sun for long periods of time, you will be at higher risk of severe sunburns and an even worse outcome…skin cancer. Often, work zones will have many reflective materials like concrete, water, and signage. All of these reflective materials can increase your exposure to the sun, creating an even higher risk to you as a Traffic Control Person.
Here are some tips to help you decrease the risk of prolonged sun exposure.
- Wear a proper amount of a high quality sunscreen product. A good recommendation is using a product with a high SPF factor and applying it approx. 30 minutes before sun exposure and then reapplying every 2 to 3 hours.
- Wear the proper clothing with your PPE. While the temperature may feel like beach weather with shorts and t-shirts, these will do nothing to protect you from the sun and are not part of the proper PPE requirement. Its recommended that workers wear safety glasses with a tinted and polarized lenses, long-sleeved shirt and pants, and a broad-brimmed hat with a neck flap to provide shade for your face and neck. Note that this clothing must always adhere to your individual job site PPE Traffic Control Person requirements. If you are not sure about this, you should consult with your supervisor.
Dangers of Heat-Related Illness
While sun exposure is clearly a danger to your skin, too much exposure can also be a threat to your overall health. Below are the different levels of heat exposure illness:
- Heat stress: Is caused by excessive heat exposure and other elements such as high humidity, synthetic clothing, dehydration, and high body heat.
- Heat exhaustion: Can be identified by a fever, excessive thirst, clammy skin, nausea, muscle aches and confusion. Heat exhaustion is also very dangerous as it can lead to heat stroke.
- Heatstroke: Is the most dangerous of all heat exposure illnesses and can even kill you. If untreated, heatstroke can damage your heart, kidneys, brain and muscles. Symptoms can include delirium, rapid breathing and high body temperature.
Prevent Heat-Related Illness on Your Jobsite
Below are a few heat safety tips for a Traffic Control Person:
- Drink plenty of water. The first step to preventing heat illness is to make sure you stay hydrated. You should drink at least 4 cups of water every hour, about one cup every 15 minutes. If you know you will be working in the sun, remember to pack enough water to last for your entire workday.
- Rest: You should take short breaks throughout your day as it helps your body to recover.
- Physical fitness: Stay fit and exercise regularly. An overweight person is at a higher risk of heat stroke. When your body has excess weight, it will retain more heat.
- Watch out for your co-workers: If you witness a co-worker showing signs of a heat related illness seek help immediately.