Working in Warmer Weather. Is Your Business Prepared?
Spring has sprung, and summer is on the way. Many businesses have workers working outdoors, but many of them do not include the risks of heat stroke and sun exposure in their risk assessments.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are caused by the body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This can be outdoors, or indoors working around hot works (e.g. furnaces). However, heat stroke is much more serious than heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion leads to heat stroke if left untreated.
So what are the signs?
- elevated body temperature above 103F (39.4C)
- rapid and strong pulse or heart rate
- loss or change of consciousness
- hot, red, dry, or moist skin
- general weakness
- increased heavy sweating
- a weak but faster pulse or heart rate
- nausea or vomiting
- possible fainting
- pale, cold, clammy skin
Should you come across someone suffering heat stroke of heat exhaustion, the NHS advise the following:
- Move them to a cool place.
- Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
- Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.
- Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good too.
- Stay with them until they are better.
The casualty should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes.
We also need to be aware of the dangers of prolonged exposure to UV light. Skin cancer for those working outdoors is a very real threat. It is important that if you feel there is a risk you employ health surveillance, and employees undergo mole checks on a regular basis.
So what can we do to reduce the risk of heat-related illness?
- Reduce exposure time. Rotating workers can aid this.
- Where possible, avoid working during the hottest part of the day, typically between 11am and 3pm.
- Provide adequate rest breaks in well ventilated, cooler areas.
- Cover up. Wear light-coloured, loose clothing.
- Use clothing fabrics designed for use in hot climates.
- Provide sunscreen for all workers.
- Ensure adequate water is available.
- Avoid excess alcohol.
- Avoid extreme exercise.
Adding heat and hot working environments to your risk assessments is imperative so that control measures can be put into place to prevent heat-related illness.
If you need help with managing working in hot weather, or with any part of your health, safety and environment management system, contact us to find out how we can help you: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01843 6399711.