Posted: August 29, 2016
Last modified: January 19, 2017

Water bottles and shade are just as important as any tool for workers along the I-4 Ultimate project limits.

Construction activity and hot temperatures are increasing this summer, so everyone working in the field are strongly encouraged and trained in proper safety protocols.

The I-4 Ultimate project has a diverse workforce, drawing from all over the United States. Many new Florida transplants may underestimate the heat.

“We hire a lot of people from all walks of life and all different parts of the country,” said Mike Pickeral, project environmental health and safety director with SGL Constructors, the design-build joint venture for the I-4 Ultimate project. “One of the first things we do is educate and train them on proper hydration and lifestyle choices. We put a huge emphasis on hydration, due to central Florida’s significant heat index throughout the majority of the year.”

Drinking energy drinks or caffeinated drinks are discouraged, as they may reduce hydration. Frequent pauses to hydrate are highly encouraged.

“If you’re doing a light strenuous activity, like bolting something together, you want eight to 12 ounces of water every 30 to 45 minutes,” Pickeral explained. “If it’s hotter or if you’re taking on a heavier workload, you’ll increase how much you drink.”

Each SGL employee is issued a two-gallon water cooler, at their new hire orientation, which they are required to have with them at all times on the job. The foremen are also encouraged to have a five-gallon cooler to supplement any additional needs for their crew. Employees have access to the extra cooler, or are given an opportunity to refill their 2 gallon cooler if required.

Hydration is key, but there are other adjustments and strategies workers bear in mind to keep the Florida heat at bay.

“You don’t want to wear dark colored clothing, and ideally, you’ll wear clothes that can wick away the heat,” Pickeral said. “We recommend our workers wear sunscreen if they have exposed skin, but it’s common for most workers to wear long sleeves.”

Although heat management and hydration training is heavily emphasized beginning in May, workers are reminded year-round – even in winter.

“Where I’m from, in the colder climates, you can actually get dehydrated quicker,” Pickeral said. “You don’t realize how thirsty you are because you’re cooler, and your sweat is absorbed by your thick clothes. Here in Florida, we focus on hydration all year.”