Working in the Heat
Summer is officially upon us, and this year it’s been a scorcher…
But when is hot too hot?
Exhaustion, rash, sunstroke and heat stress are serious problems for everybody this summer, let alone those of us who are required to be outside all day as part of our job. So here are a few things to look out for in the heat, and a couple of suggestions on how to cope.
Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
Two of the more common illnesses related to the heat are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
While heat exhaustion usually gets better once you’ve cooled down, it can lead to heat stroke – a potentially life-threatening issue.
- Muscle cramp
- Heat rash
- Severe thirst
If you or a colleague experience any of these signs, be sure to take a break and speak to your line manager.
If symptoms persist or get worse after 30 minutes – call 999.
While it might be uncomfortable dealing with the heat at home, we can usually do something about it – have a drink, sit in the shade, take off a jacket – however, at work that’s not always possible.
In some lines of work, it can be the very PPE to protect you that is causing you to overheat and lead to problems.
But what can we do?
- Perform a risk assessment
Often working outside in the heat is unavoidable, but sometimes work can be reorganised to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Performing a risk assessment will allow you to assess the risks and identify any potential steps that could be taken to avoid or minimise them.
- Assess your PPE
Some PPE can incorporate cooling systems or breathable fabrics for hotter conditions. But also encourage workers to wear loose fitting long trousers and t-shirts to protect from the sun’s UV rays. Sun cream should also be worn and topped up regularly to prevent long-term damage to the skin.
- Take regular breaks
Taking regular breaks in the shade will help your body to regulate its temperature and prevent heat exhaustion.
- Have a drink (of water)
The more you sweat, the more you need to drink. Be sure to drink lots of water throughout your shift. Tea and coffee can dehydrate you and are not an ideal substitute.
- Identify potentially vulnerable workers
If you know of people on your team that don’t do well in the heat or have other underlying health conditions, alert your line manager.
- Speak out
Heatstroke can lead to death. If you, or someone in your crew, is feeling unwell – tell your line manager and get them to a cooler place to rest with plenty of water.
For more information and advice, please visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/