The Heat is on!
The Dangers of Heat Stress in the workplace.
While getting the job done is important and following Health and Safety on site is critical, managing the heat on construction sites and in offices during the heatwave can be difficult.
Sites and offices can become unbearable in the heat and sometimes a common sense approach to clothing and working in the heat is more manageable.
The HSE has provided some useful guidance on Heat Stress and working conditions.
Hot summer months can cause an increased risk of heat stress for some workers,
The constant exposure to heat can cause the bodies normal control system to fail and body temperature can quickly begin to rise. As well as the air temperature, there are other factors, which contribute to this such as humidity and clothing worn. I have seen some posts on social media this week of businesses taking a sensible approach to office attire and letting staff wear shorts. However, this is not always easy if you are on a construction site where hard hats, boiler suits and overalls are needed.
What is Heat Stress?
When we are too hot, the body reacts by increasing the blood flow to the skins surface causing us to sweat. Someone wearing protective clothing working in a heat wave could be at risk of heat stress as the sweat is restricted by the clothing and cannot evaporate from the body. The body temperature will continue to rise and become dehydrated.
Here are some things to be aware of and advice on how to work safely in the heat.
Look for signs of the effects of heat stress, these can include:
An inability to concentrate
Muscle cramps due to lack of water in the body
Headaches and Nausea.
In the most severe cases, convulsions can occur from heat stroke.
What can be done to combat heat stress?
Working earlier in the day and taking breaks during the hottest part of the day.
Having plenty of cool water available and drinking at regular intervals.
Wear sun protection
If possible wear lighter clothing which is breathable; there are specialist protective clothing available which incorporates personal cooling.
Take regular breaks in the shade.
Eat regularly to increase energy levels.
Use fans or air conditioning units in offices to cool down the temperature.
Reduce your work rate and take things a bit slower so you do not overheat.
Seek advice from a professional occupational health practitioner or medical practitioner if you are more prone to heat stress. Those with heart conditions, who are pregnant or the elderly can be more prone.
Monitor the health of your co-workers by introducing a buddy system to look out for the signs of heat stress.
More information is available at:
And if the worst should happen and you or a colleague suffers from heatstroke then follow the guidance from the NHS and seek help.