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Extreme heat: what precautions to take in the construction industry?

While France is experiencing a third heat wave this season, it is important to remember that all employees are exposed to heat-related risks. In general, work and heat don't mix. Whether on construction sites, in an office, on the roofs, in the gardens, in a business... The risks are more or less important depending on the position but remain very present.

Construction: a sector that presents risks

In 2020, high summer heat caused 12 fatal work accidents in France. The construction industry, the economic sector of construction and public works, presents great risks for its employees during the summer season. According to'INRS, National Institute for Scientific Research, for trades requiring physical or outdoor activity, a temperature above 28°C can constitute a significant risk for the health of workers.

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Protect yourself from the heat on construction sites

Heat waves are becoming more frequent and require construction employers to take measures to protect employees, especially outdoors. Every year as the summer season approaches, the Ministry of Labor recommends protective measures for workers in the event of high temperatures. In addition, since May 31, 2022, the directive from the Ministry of Labor calls for regular checks in the construction sector. Indeed, labor inspections are more necessary in summer to ensure that workers are protected and comply with established safety measures. They intervene to ensure the proper implementation of precautionary measures in the field and adequate working conditions.

Nevertheless, in the front line, it is the employer who has obligations to respect. He must ensure the protection of his workers. There are various gestures and measures which make it possible to limit the risk of accidents at work. Here are some examples, according to the INRS:

  • Train and inform employees about heat-related risks, symptoms of heat stroke and first aid measures
  • Arrange working hours by favoring the cooler hours of the day: prefer working early in the morning or in the evening.
  • Increase the frequency of recovery breaks in cool places
  • Provide employees with drinking and fresh water: don't neglect your hydration!

For a day spent on construction sites, it is essential to drink at least 3 liters of water during the day. For perfect hydration management, prefer a glass of water every 20 minutes. At the same time, the ideal would be tobalance your diet to enjoy good physical energy and strengthen yourself.

Vigilance: sometimes, even if the feeling of thirst is not present, the body is still dehydrated. So to your water bottles!

The employer in the construction industry must be on the lookout for daily weather conditions in order to best prepare their internal management plan. The latter will be used to manage and apprehend possible heat waves without impacting the progress of the construction site. For more information, theINRS provides companies with numerous supports on work in high heat, and a case.

Serious consequences of heat exposure

Exposure to heat can have serious effects on an individual's health. Heatstroke is one of the serious consequences of prolonged exposure to high temperatures. This is what happens when our body experiences a phenomenon of “overheating” and exceeds 40°C. This is because the human body can only withstand heat up to a certain point. The internal temperature of the body being 37°C, 

It is a rare emergency but it can be life-threatening: heat stroke is fatal in 15 to 25% of cases.

Symptoms can be visible and easily interpreted:

  • great tiredness 
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Headache
  • Sudden fever
  • Palpitations
  • Red, dry and hot skin
  • Vomiting
  • Behavioral disorders and mental confusion

What to do ?

As soon as these warning signals are detected in a worker exposed to heat, you must act quickly. The first instinct should be to alert external emergency services: Samu (15) or European emergency services call number (112). 

It is also possible to start a first aid process. It is imperative to place the person in the shade and try to cool them with air or water.

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