As temperatures soar this week in the UK, WA Management are focusing in this month’s research blog on how to keep safe over the summer, particularly when working in the heat, as well as reminding you of general workplace safety with the return to work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is Heat Stress?
In many jobs heat stress is an issue all year round (such as bakeries, compressed air tunnels, foundries and smelting operations), but it can be harmful to anyone during the hot summer months where 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.
Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways, and some people are more susceptible to it than others. Nevertheless, typical symptoms of heat stress are:
- an inability to concentrate.
- muscle cramps.
- heat rash.
- severe thirst – a late symptom of heat stress.
- heat exhaustion – fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin.
- heat stroke – hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness. This is the most severe disorder and can result in death if not detected at an early stage.
In Doubt? Do A Risk Assessment!
Over time people adapt to hot conditions by sweating more, and by changing their behaviour to try and cool down, eg removing clothing, taking cool drinks, fanning themselves, sitting in the shade or a cool area, and/or reducing their work rate. However, in many work situations such behavioural changes may not be possible, eg during asbestos removal.
Where there is a possibility of heat stress occurring you will need to carry out a risk assessment which should look at:
- 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.
How Can I Reduce the Risks of Heat Stress?
- Controlling the temperature with solutions such as fans or air conditioning.
- Preventing dehydration by providing cool water in the workplace and encourage workers to regularly drink it.
- Providing training about the risks of heat stress and how to recognise it.
- Identifying who is at risk and is more susceptible to heat stress either because of an illness/condition or medication etc.
- Making sure to monitor the health of workers at risk.
Not only do we need to remember how to keep safe in the heat but with many of us now returning to the office amidst the easing of lockdown in the UK, it is worth a reminder of general safety in the workplace. Common workplace hazards include slips, trips and falls, manual handling incidents as well as other potential medical incidents such as cardiac arrest.
For this month only, we have two essential online training courses on sale to help make sure staff are protected in the face of any of these accidents or injuries. The first is our CPR Essentials (RoSPA Accredited) course which provides the basic knowledge required to assist anyone who may be having cardiac failure, with effective CPR more than doubling the chance of someone surviving a cardiac arrest. Secondly, our Managing Health and Safety (RoSPA Accredited) course effectively explains the importance of managing Health and Safety issues in the workplace, in line with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, including how to avoid and manage accidents.
Don’t miss out, get 10% OFF these courses for the month only with the code ‘saveoversummer20’!