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Heat Stress, Masks and COVID-19

Companies in the construction industry are doing everything they can to keep employees safe during the sweltering summer months: safe from injury, heat stress, falls, and now COVID-19.

As an essential business, Danella continues to do business according while abiding by government regulations, which includes requiring all employees to wear masks. As outdoor temperatures continue to rise, companies struggle with in-field employees completing strenuous physical work while having their face covered.

Heat stress has always been a concern for those in the construction industry, as heat-related deaths have been on an upward trend for years. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines heat stress as the combination of a worker’s exposure to things like heat from physical activity, environmental factors, and clothing, which increases the body’s heat storage.

Adding a mask into this equation can reduce the stable body temperature when temperatures rise above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Using cooling towels or bandanas are encouraged for relief from the heat, along with drinking plenty of water and seeking shade.

John Hopkins Medicine also warns that heat stress can be particularly hard for those with a respiratory condition or any underlying health problems. Children under four, those who are overweight, and those who suffer from chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes are at a higher risk of suffering a heat-related illness.

Wearing a mask can complicate identifying the early signs of heat stress. One way to monitor heat stress is to have a buddy system, which encourages coworkers to check in on each other regularly throughout the day.

When proper social distancing cannot be followed, masks are a necessity to help stop the spread of COVID-19. OSHA has commented that paper/disposal masks may be easier to breathe through in hot humid weather rather than reusable cloth masks.

As a reminder, workers should not share water bottles or cups when hydrating. Everyone is always encouraged to keep six feet apart. If you feel overheated, let someone know right away and seek shade, water, and a cooler location.

To learn more about heat-related illnesses, visit our blog post.