This article was authored by Jarred Schenke, and is republished here with the permission of Bisnow Atlanta. © Copyright 2019 Bisnow. All Rights Reserved.

Part 2 in a 3 part series on the construction industry and hot weather

A vulnerable industry

These extreme heat events cause complications beyond costs for the construction industry. More frequent and longer heat waves may become a factor in increasing incidents of heat-related illnesses, such as heatstroke.

In a study published last year in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers found that the construction industry accounted for 36.8% of all heat-related deaths nationwide. Researchers writing in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that, between 2000 and 2010, construction workers were 13 times more likely to die from heat-related deaths compared to workers in other industries.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, incidents of nonfatal, heat-related illnesses that required a construction or extraction worker to take time off to recover are on the rise since 2015. In 2017, there were 700 incidents reported in the U.S., up from 640 the year before and 280 in 2015. In 2011 and 2012, the number of those incidents exceeded 800 each year before trending downward until 2015.

Associated General Contractors of Georgia CEO Michael Dunham said the industry has been focused on heat-related safety for a while, especially in the South. But he said more breaks and specific work not being able to be complete during the peak heat of the day diminishes productivity.

“Heat is something we deal with every year,” DPR Construction Southeast Regional Safety Manager Steve Duff said.

DPR provides more breaks for workers at construction sites, educational talks on what to look for with heat illnesses and plenty of water. Duff acknowledged that the number of heat-related incidents has gone up over the years in the construction industry. But he credits lifestyle factors over climate change for the reason.

For one, many people who entered the construction industry after the Great Recession came from other industries, some of which may have not have been outdoors as frequently. Duff also said the popularity of energy drinks is a culprit: While a worker may not feel thirsty after drinking a big can, caffeine is a known dehydrator. “It’s just the level … of experience of working outdoors, coupled with a lot of these energy drinks and a lifestyle,” he said.

(Source: Schenke, Jarred. “Costs, Complications Plaguing Construction Industry Amid Hottest Summer Ever.”, Bisnow Atlanta,

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