Managing Heat Safely

By Russ Tabaka, Gilbank Construction, Inc.

We’ve been lucky here in Wisconsin to have a very mild winter and reasonably comfortable temperatures this spring. However, that doesn’t mean that the annual risk of dehydration and heat stress will not be prevalent in the summer of 2024. In years past it hasn’t been uncommon to see temperature swings of 50+ degrees within a single work day. Then in months like June the body’s  acclimation to the conditions still takes time and cannot be overlooked. Some of the strategies to keeping crews safe might seem routine, but regardless of the severity of the summer these best practices should always be followed:

Hydration – The National Library of Medicine claims that construction workers can expel up to 1.5L per hour in hot climates ( Encourage your crews to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day. Easy times to stay on top of regular hydration could be during morning stretch and bends, during coffee breaks (along with the coffee of course) and at lunch breaks. Daily huddles can be used as a time to inventory who has water on them, who needs water made available to them and who needs to know where to find water. The Center for Disease Control ( also cautions that drinking more than 1-1/2 quarts per hour can lead to a dilution of salt concentration which can be detrimental to regular bodily functions.

Acclimation – As temperatures begin to rise it is important to understand how the body “warms up” to the change of the seasons. It’s not just workers who are outside in direct sunlight that need time for their bodies to adapt to the increased enviromental stress. OSHA ( describes proper acclimatization as a “gradual increase in worker’s time in hot conditions over 7 to 14 days”. A deeper dive into the details on how to expose crews gradually can be found on their website under heat stresses.

Recognize a problem – Does your crew member have slurred speech after setting forms in a trench while out in the sun? Are your roofing crews struggling to maintain balance on a ladder just before lunch time? Have you noticed your operator dozing off while fine grading a parking lot? These are all situations that could be heat related and require more attention. Proceed with caution and contact a medical professional as soon as you can, but following some of the guidelines discussed above may be beneficial to prevent an emergency situation.

In construction we love the springtime for the anticipation of the projects to come, the preferred weather conditions to work in and the opportunities that this productive time of year brings! Let’s keep the heat stress to a minimum and have a great year!

Recommended Articles
Chapter News


ABC-Wisconsin Reminds RNC Attendees that Project Labor Agreements are a Bad Deal
Safety (blog)


First Aid Skills for Every Jobsite
Articles & Papers


Managing Heat Safely