Now that spring is upon us, construction jobs in your area are likely starting to pick up steam. Good weather and fair skies open up a lot of working hours if you are a contractor. Still, as temperatures rise, you have to keep an eye on them. Long hours of manual labor in the heat could easily cause you or your employees to get hurt without even knowing it. Sun-related injuries could happen quickly. Here’s why.
If you or one of your employees gets hurts due to a sun-related injury, then it could be grounds for a workers’ compensation claims. However, not all injuries will qualify. Therefore, you should do what you can to prevent these injuries in the meantime.
The Risks Posed by the Sun
It might be a nice day out. The temperatures might be fair, and there is a breeze. It seems like a perfect day to be on the job at the house you are building. Indeed it is, if you plan ahead. As they say, everything needs to come in moderation. That goes for your exposure to your heat or temperature. Everyone knows that a little time in the sun never hurt anyone. However, If you overdo it, you could roast, perhaps literally.
The heat, radiation and light exposure brought on the sun could cause injuries of various shapes and sizes. These might include:
- Sunburn of varying degrees. The most-severe sunburns could easily rival the severity of any flame or chemical burn.
- Increased risks of skin cancer, acne and other breakouts
- Sunstroke or heat stroke, where the body temperature exceeds 105 degrees. When the body temperature rises too high it could lead to severe internal trauma, even brain damage.
- Dehydration, and the related side effects, including organ failure
- Eye damage from prolonged exposure to bright sunlight
The sun is nothing to be messed with. However, given that you might work outside for a lot of hours, you might put yourself more at-risk than others. Therefore, as long as you have workers on site, they should take precautions for sun safety.
Protecting Your Employees on Construction Sites
Generally, sun protection is very easy. If you have a team of workers, they all should take the following precautions.
- Everyone should wear a head covering, like a cap or wide-brimmed hat. If you plan to use hard-hats, these will suffice.
- Consider eyewear mandatory on construction sites. In many cases, these glasses come with visors, polarization and various shadings.
- Sunscreen is not an option. It is a requirement. Everyone should wear at least SPF-30 or higher grade at all times.
- All workers should wear clothes designed to both shield and ventilate. In many cases, long-sleeves and blue jeans will protect arms and legs from the sun. However, they will also breathe, allowing the skin to sweat and the body to cool itself.
You also have other ways to keep your employees safe on the job as well.
- As necessary, provide items like sunscreen and cooling packs to encourage employees to re-apply protection and cool off.
- Once you have an electrical setup, make fans and misting devices available.
- Provide water and an electrolyte-rich drink (like Gatorade®) along with a selection of healthy foods that employees can choose when they need to take breaks.
- Rigorously enforce break requirements. Employees should take at least a 15-minute break every two hours or so.
If you begin to notice any of the following symptoms, among employees they might be signs of trouble:
- Both excessive sweating, and a lack of sweating, could signal various issues. As someone sweats, they begin to deplete their hydration. Therefore, anyone who sweats needs something to drink to replenish that lost fluid.
- If someone begins to burn, recommend that they reapply sunscreen and then rest for a while.
- Signs of sunstroke might be a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, lack of awareness, nausea and other symptom. If you notice these problems developing, immediately seek medical attention.
Does Sun Illness Qualify For Workers Compensation?
If one of your employees gets hurt or sick on the job, they might sustain a long-term or even debilitating illness. Should a sun-injury, even a sunburn, cause the illnesses, then the employee might have to stop working for a period. In these cases, they might qualify for workers’ compensation.
Workers’ comp provides supplementary income if an employee gets hurt on the job. You’ll likely have to carry workers’ compensation insurance in your line of work. However, for an injured employee to qualify for workers’ compensation for a sun injury, they must prove that the injury directly related to their work. So, a simple sunburn accumulated over several days of working might not qualify. The injuries related to a sudden-onset heatstroke, however, might.
Still, rather than having frequent claims for sun-related injuries (and the potential for denied claims), encourage employees to take preventive steps. The more care they take in the sun, the better off they might be in case they have issues arise.
Also Read: What Your BOP Will and Will Not Insure