With the onset of summer, the chances of heat-related injuries dramatically increase wherever construction operations occur. As with all safety concerns, Ball takes the issue of heat stress very seriously.
Construction work often involves working strenuously in the hot sun and high humidity for extended periods. Factors such as heavy lifting, working near hot machinery and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) add to the risk of heat injury. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of masks can increase breathing resistance and heat load, adding further discomfort and increasing the wearer’s risk of heat stress.
Heat-related illnesses range from mild to severe, with the most common being fainting, heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is a dangerous life-threatening illness that occurs when body temperatures quickly rise above 41 ºC.
For Ball Construction’s health and safety manager, Brian Burns, protecting workers against heat stress is a crucial element in Ball’s overall safety-first strategy.
“Part of our proactive approach to protecting the health and safety of all workers is having effective heat-related mitigation measures in place to help eliminate workplace injuries and illnesses.”
Hot Weather Plan
To lessen the risk of heat injury, the Ball Construction Hot Weather Plan goes into effect when the day’s temperature reaches the lower-level threshold of 30ºC, as monitored by our site superintendents. The plan uses an on-site warning flag system and action plan:
Yellow Flag: Heat Stress Alert 30–33ºC
- Start recording temperatures twice a day
- Increase fluids if working outside in direct sunlight (apply sunscreen or protective clothing)
Red Flag: Heat Stress Warning 34–37ºC
- Post Heat Stress Notice
- Increase temperature readings and recordings to four times a day
- Workers must drink plenty of water and take breaks in a cool rest area
Black Flag: Hazardous Conditions 37ºC +
- Precautions must be taken to eliminate the possibility of heat stress and heat stroke
- Rotate workers required to work outside (limit to maximum 30min per session)
- Assign alternate duties in shaded or interior where possible
- Supervisors must monitor outside workers for signs of heat stress
- Take 15-minute breaks per hour
- Increase water intake
- Watch fellow workers for signs of heat cramps, heat exhaustions and heat stroke
These warning flags are placed in highly visible areas to advise all workers of the heat hazards and all necessary precautions to prevent heat injury.
Ball Construction’s general heat safety control measures include:
- Providing a continuous supply of cool water to all on-site workers, with small amounts to be consumed frequently (one cup every 20 minutes) and before the start of the work period
- Supplying sun screen as needed
- Modifying work and rest schedules according to temperature and workload
- Rotating personnel into alternate job functions to minimize overexertion
- Supplementing work teams with additional personnel
- Limiting worker occupancy especially in confined or enclosed spaces
- Reducing physical demands of work such as excessive lifting or digging
- Using ventilation, air conditioning, shielding, fans and insulation with a designated shaded and cool rest area
- Acclimatizing new workers to the heat
- Using PPE such as cooling vests, and light clothing
- Implementing Ball’s first aid and emergency response plan if needed
Ball provides employees with a two-pronged approach to heat stress. Each new worker undergoes a site-specific safety orientation session, which includes the warning flag system. Then, as a reminder before the hot weather begins, Ball Construction provides a tool box talk detailing all the risks of heat stress and the actions needed to mitigate against it. This ensures all workers are fully trained and prepared for whatever the season may bring.