How are you managing in this heatwave? Majority of us still have to work in these hot conditions, but more importantly how are you coping and managing whilst being at work?
In many jobs, heat stress is an issue all year round (such as bakeries, compressed air tunnels, foundries and smelting operations), but during the hot summer months there may be an increased risk of heat stress for some people.
Heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. As well as air temperature, factors such as work rate, humidity and clothing worn while working may lead to heat stress.
Employers including staff must be aware of how to work safely in heat, the factors that can lead to heat stress, and how to reduce the risk of it occurring.
How does the body react to heat?
The body reacts to heat by increasing the blood flow to the skin’s surface, and by sweating. This results in cooling as sweat evaporates from the body’s surface and heat is carried to the surface of the body from within by the increased blood flow. Heat can also be lost by radiation and convection from the body’s surface.
Typical example of a heat stress situation
Someone wearing protective clothing and performing heavy work in hot and humid conditions could be at risk of heat stress because:
- sweat evaporation is restricted by the type of clothing and the humidity of the environment
- heat will be produced within the body due to the work rate and, if insufficient heat is lost, core body temperature will rise
- as core body temperature rises the body reacts by increasing the amount of sweat produced, which may lead to dehydration
- heart rate also increases which puts additional strain on the body
- if the body is gaining more heat than it can lose the deep body temperature will continue to rise
- eventually it reaches a point when the body’s control mechanism itself starts to fail
The symptoms will worsen the longer someone remains working in the same conditions.
What are the effects of heat stress?
Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways, and some people are more susceptible to it than others.
Signs of heat stress you need to be a aware of:
- An inability to concentrate
- Muscle cramps
- Heat rash
- Severe thirst – a late symptom of heat stress
- Heat exhaustion – fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin
How can you reduce the risks?
- Control the temperature – use fans or air conditioning
- Prevent dehydration – provide cool water in the workplace and encourage workers to drink frequently in small amounts, before, during and after work
- Provide training to staff – telling them about heat stress associated with their work, what symptoms to look out for, safe working practices and emergency procedures.
- Monitor the health of staff – Where it is considered that a residual risk remains after implementing as many control measures as practicable, you may need to monitor the health of workers exposed to the risk.
- Identify who is at risk- identify employees who are more susceptible to heat stress either because of an illness/condition or medication that may encourage the early onset of heat stress.
Carrying out a risk assessment
Where there is a possibility of heat stress occurring, employers will need to carry out a risk assessment of how to control the risks within the workplace.
When carrying out a risk assessment, the major factors you need to consider are:
- work rate – the harder someone works the greater the amount of body heat generated
- working climate – this includes air temperature, humidity, air movement and effects of working near a heat source
- employee clothing and respiratory protective equipment – may impair the efficiency of sweating and other means of temperature regulation; employee’s age, build and medical factors – may affect an individual’s tolerance
With the rising temperatures, it is important to look at heat stress and how this is impacting you at work, how are you controlling this, have you done a risk assessment and put measures in place?
Also, consider whether you have First Aiders within your workplace, there may be staff or visitors who may need attending to. This is vital in our current heatwave climate as you will need to know what to do if a colleague was to come to harm as a result of heat stress.
We can help you and your staff to prepare for this summer, contact us via email email@example.com or give us a call on 08000 842 297.
Source of information- https://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/heatstress/