Month: June 2019

Heat Safety: 4 Tips to Stay Safe on Construction Sites During Summer

Heat illness prevention graphic of construction worker

Summer is officially here, and although the warm weather brings promises of barbecues, beach days and the hum of AC, working in the summer heat is not something to be taken lightly. For construction laborers and other outdoor workers, the heat can drain your energy and be very dangerous if proper precautions aren’t taken.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data, in 2015 over 2,830 American workers suffered from a heat-related illness that required at least one day away from work. In order to prevent more injuries now and in the future, it is important to spread awareness in the workplace about how to stay safe while out and in intense summer conditions. By planning ahead and executing these simple safety measures, you will be happier, healthier and ready to enjoy all the fun that the summer heat has to offer.

Drink Water

Staying hydrated is the single most important thing you can do to prevent heat-related injury or illness. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends drinking water every 15 to 20 minutes even if you are not thirsty. Additionally, anyone exposed to prolonged periods of sweating should balance out their electrolytes by drinking sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade. Keep in mind, though, that sports drinks are laden with food dye and sugars, so you can also boost your electrolytes by eating mineral-rich foods like bananas, nuts, yogurt, and dark green vegetables like kale. Coconut water is another good source of replenishing electrolytes. If you can’t carry snacks around, some say that adding a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon to your water can have a similar satisfying effect.

Be Cautious of Caffeine

Coffee is an essential part of the day for many Americans. However, all caffeine — whether it be coffee, tea or soda — can be dangerous on a hot summer day if you aren’t careful. This is because caffeine can be diuretic, meaning that it causes water loss in the body and dehydrates you more quickly. Whether or not caffeine is actually a diuretic has been debated over the past few years, but your reaction is also very subjective; someone who rarely drinks caffeine may feel its effects more than a daily consumer, especially on a hot day. Drinking water throughout the day should counter these effects, but be wary of drinking excessive amounts of caffeine, especially while on the job site.

Take Breaks

Do not be afraid to take breaks. No job is worth risking your health over. The heat can be draining, and it is important that you allow yourself the time you need to recuperate. When you do take breaks make sure you find some shade, drink at least 20 ounces of water and reapply sunscreen. For lunch, eat healthy and energizing foods. You will be surprised how much stronger you feel throughout the day.

Know the Symptoms

Excessive heat can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It is important that you are able to recognize these symptoms and know what to do if the situation arises.

Heat Exhaustion

Nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, confusion, dizziness, and cool, pale, moist or flushed skin can all be signs of heat exhaustion. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms it is important that you immediately move them to a cooler location and start to loosen any tight or heavy clothing they are wearing. You need to lower the person’s body temperature by any means necessary. Some examples of how to do this include fanning them, spraying them down with cool water or resting wet towels on their skin. If the victim is conscious, start replenishing their fluids by having them drink water slowly (about 4 ounces every 15 minutes). Keep a careful eye on the person and watch for any changes in their condition. If they refuse care, begin to lose consciousness or start to vomit, call 911 or local emergency authorities immediately.

Heat Stroke

Signs of heat stroke include hot dry red skin, confusion, loss of consciousness or convulsions and seizures. Heat stroke is an extremely serious condition and can be fatal, so if you witness anybody experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, cool the person down as quickly as possible. If circumstance allows, immerse the person up to their neck in cold water. If that isn’t an option, spray the person down or apply ice packs or wet towels to their skin.

For more information on what to do when temperatures rise, download the free Red Cross Emergency App. The app also gives users the option to receive alerts for excessive heat watches, warnings and heat advisories.

We want this summer to be memorable for a lot of reasons, but overheating is not one of them. When working outdoors in hot weather, the most important things to remember are water, shade and rest. Anyone can be at risk for severe dehydration and heat exhaustion, but people who are not used to prolonged exposure to heat typically are at a higher risk of suffering an injury. As things start to heat up this summer, ease your way into your work, especially if you are a new employee. Listen to your body and take the necessary precautions to ensure that you are both safe and successful.

Now get out there and enjoy the sunshine!

 

 

Written by Grace Mulleavey

 

 

 

 

Resident Project Representative: A Young Engineer’s Perspective

Resident Project Representative Collecting an Asphalt Core Sample

A resident project representative (RPR) is responsible for keeping track of daily construction operations to assure that the project is being constructed per the contract documents and construction plans. They are there to reduce – and if possible – eliminate the potential for construction defects or deficiencies. In order to do this the RPR must be organized, communicate effectively with the Client, Contractor, and Engineer, and always research and plan ahead as much as possible.

For my first project as an RPR, I worked on an airport that included two separate projects. The first project I worked on was for a runway rehabilitation which involved removing existing asphalt and shoulder pavement, adding lime rock and compacting it with the existing base course, paving, striping, and a new electrical system. The second project involved some heliport site improvements. A roadway, taxilane connector, parking lot extension, and sidewalk were added to an existing helipad.

Organization

Prior to going on-site, an RPR is given many resources to gain familiarity with the project and site.  First and foremost, an RPR should keep safety in mind. They should be aware of the phasing of the project to determine when and where heavy equipment will be operating, points of contact for potential emergency situations, and check the weather each day. See this article for additional information on safety awareness while on-site.

The two main resources include construction drawings and a project manual containing contract documents and technical specifications. These documents can include a bound 200-500-page project manual and a set of 20-100 sheets of design plans. Utilizing these resources by clarifying details and enforcing standards can seem like a daunting task even if, as an engineer, you are heavily involved in the creation of these resources.

Reconstruction of One of the Potholes

Reconstruction of One of the Potholes

I began by assessing each technical specification and highlighting the numerical and qualitative units that I needed to ensure were being constructed to code. For example, according to the Federal Aviation Administration standard for the P-401 Hot Mix Asphalt (HMA) Pavements:

 “The initial placement and compaction of the HMA shall occur at a temperature suitable for obtaining density, surface smoothness, and other specified requirements but not less than 250° F (121°C).

In this case, I would take note of the 250° F requirement of the HMA mix that came on-site and use a thermometer to test the temperature of the mix while it was in the delivery truck before it was placed down as pavement.

Keeping all documentation including the daily reports, construction meeting minutes, change orders, shop drawings, pay applications and test results organized was required. These would be referenced at different points in the project, and it was important to be aware of how one change would affect the project schedule and budget.

Planning Ahead & Researching

Weather, unforeseen circumstances, and schedule changes can always impact a construction project. Several unforeseen circumstances that came up while my coworkers and I were on the site included a base course that ended up pumping a lot of water, digging up existing electrical wires, and numerous potholes that started popping up on a runway that was being rehabilitated.

Pothole on a Milled Runway

Pothole on a Milled Runway

To stay on track, an RPR utilizes communication and organization, but to handle these unforeseen circumstances, they must also be creative. When situations like this arise, the RPR helps alleviate confusion and coordinate and implement a strategy that will allow the project to be minimally impacted. Researching potential issues, details, and situations that weren’t familiar enabled me to have a database to pull from in these situations. Planning ahead by looking at the weather and familiarizing myself with relevant specifications and schedule details enabled me to mitigate the stress that came from these situations.

Communication

An RPR keeps a mental account of the city/county standards circulating as they watch all construction operations, verifying distances, lengths, taking photos of each process, and communicating with the Contractor.  At any point in the work, if something looks off or is not being done as a standard specifies – the RPR must communicate quickly and effectively with the Contractor or Engineer.

The RPR is also in charge of scheduling testing. In my case, I was scheduling and monitoring the Geotechnical Engineer conducting density tests of compacted limerock, collecting concrete cylinders, and taking asphalt core samples. I watched how they took their tests, verified they were using the correct numbers and processes, and that their results matched what was required per specification.

It’s an iterative process to identify an issue, bring it to the Contractor’s attention, and ask them their method of resolving the issue; and if it is an issue that’s not made clear by taking a closer look at plans and specifications – it has to be run by the Engineer. At that point, an RPR must provide a clear descriptive explanation of the scenario and the feedback they are requesting from the Engineer.

As you can imagine, this process of going between the Contractor, Geotechnical Engineer, Engineer, Client, possibly the air traffic control tower and other personnel from the city or county can cause a variety of reactions. This could feel easy and simple or awkward, frustrating, and complex. Reactive communication is rarely effective communication. As an RPR, you will be subjected to many peoples’ reactions, including your own. You must remain calm and firm on your decisions while still maintaining a good relationship with the Contractor and Client. Communication involves coordinating schedule updates, preventing issues, addressing the Contractor’s request for changes and clarification, and problem-solving unanticipated issues.  An RPR must be clear, calm, and consider how communication truly can resolve most issues.

For a young engineer, independently being an RPR for the first time can be overwhelming. However, going onsite to gain that experience is the best method of learning to manage all the demands that come with this being an RPR. The on-site experience bridges the gap young engineers have between designing engineering plans and the construction of the project from those plans.  Having completed this experience, I feel significantly more equipped as an engineer than I did before.