Heatwave: ‘We’re completely knocked out…’ When workers face extreme heat

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With the high temperatures, the bodies of construction workers are put to the test. Their employers are required to take certain steps to protect them.

“Normally, our facade workers, who install brick strips on the exterior walls, can cover an area of ​​20m2 per day. Last Tuesday, when the thermometer read 40°C, they were at 4 m2”, announces Claudio Marino, construction manager of the Toulouse-based company BRL Façades, based in the Thibault area. This is a return divided by five.

For Naif, who is currently decorating the walls of a building under construction in Jolimont on behalf of BRL, it is “impossible to do more” during these episodes of intense heat, so much are the organisms strained. “We have water in the cooler and on the scaffolding, that’s the most important thing. We drink constantly to resist. On hot days, until 11 o’clock, it’s fine, but after noon we are completely KO”, admits the worker.

This strong heat is trying for people but also for some materials, and in particular glues, which are losing effectiveness. For this reason, throughout the summer, the four teams of four workers from BRL Façades arrive at the construction site early, around 7 in the morning. “They finish even earlier, after continuous days”, adds Claudio Marino.
Working in the heat can be a source of health risks for employees and injuries. The chamber of trades and crafts of the Haute-Garonne (CMA 31) also transmits the prevention measures of the Ministry of Labour, with the craft businesses. “This risk must be taken into account because heat waves are likely to repeat themselves more and more,” confirms Fanny Potagnik, head of environment and occupational safety at CMA 31. Knowing that employers have an obligation to preserve the health and safety of their employees, as indicated by the Labor Code. “The latter, in the event of a risk of exposure to high heat, must prevent the risk and include it in their single professional assessment document, which is mandatory in every company with employees”, explains Fanny Potagnik.

“I will resume at the end of August”

In the event of a heat wave warning, construction employers must “provide their employees with at least 3 liters of fresh drinking water per day and per employee, a place to rest away from the heat, staggered hours with more regular breaks and also stop work when possible, handling aids, personal protective equipment such as cooling vests, sunglasses, caps, etc.,” continues Fanny Potagnik. Today, taking into consideration the risks associated with the heat is starting to become part of the habits of contractors, even if it is not always easy to establish: “It is easier in small construction sites with private individuals”, concludes Fanny Potagnik. Self-employed roofer in Toulouse, Jean Naveri has fully integrated this risk. He has also chosen to suspend his activity for the summer. “I finished my last job on Monday morning. I will resume at the end of August,” he said.

It hasn’t always been like this. “When I had workers, we started at 6 in the morning and stopped at noon at the latest. “. But today, at 52, the roofer decided to “start slowing down”. Story to avoid a possible tile.

Heat related risks

For employees exposed to heat: it is recommended to:
– Reduce pace and physical effort, increase break times, favor shaded areas.
– Wear loose, light-colored clothing, protect your head and eyes.
– Drink water regularly, even if you’re not thirsty.
– Avoid alcoholic or caffeine-containing drinks, eat lightly.
– Stop any activity in case of problems or inconvenience and report it.
– Report specific vulnerabilities to intense heat to the occupational physician.
Exposure to high heat makes physical activities more difficult and can lead to forgetfulness, mistakes and discomfort. In the most severe cases, fatigue, cramps, nausea, headache or dizziness and a body temperature above 39°C can be the first signs of heatstroke, potentially fatal in 15-25% of cases.

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