Heat stress is a major threat to many workers, especially those who work outside in the summer months. But don’t forget that heat stress at work is a threat all year round. Those who work in factories and bakeries can be vulnerable to heat-related illnesses, no matter what the season.
In order to operate safely as a business, you and your employees must be clued up about it. Here’s everything you need to know about heat stress and how you can protect your workforce.
How to Protect Your Workforce from Heat Stress
There are various ways in which you can adequately protect your team from the dangers of heat stress at work. These include:
- It often takes two to three weeks for employees to become acclimated to a hot environment. In that case, you need to allow time for your employees to adjust to hot jobs wherever possible.
- Revise your work schedule. If possible, assign the harder, more physical tasks on cooler days or during the cooler part of the day (outside of 1pm-3pm).
- Reduce your workload and introduce more equipment to the role in hotter weather to reduce physical labour.
- A clear schedule for break and drinks times must be put in place and abided by.
- Your staff should be well aware of what heat stress is and the dangers they potentially face by working outdoors in the sun or in extreme temperatures. They should be trained to recognise the symptoms and give the necessary first aid.
- Choose appropriate employees for the hotter days. Avoid placing high risk employees in hot working environments for long periods of time. Different employees have differing levels of toleration when it comes to heat stress conditions.
- Designate a responsible person for monitoring conditions and protecting workers who are at risk of heat stress.
How Workers Can Stay Safe
Whilst it’s important you put guidelines in place to look after your workers, it’s important that they take the following actions to protect from heat stress at work:
- Your staff need to recognise the symptoms of heat stress. They need to pace their work and take adequate break periods in a shaded, cool area.
- Use adequate equipment for ventilation and cooling, especially when wearing PPE. Work shorts are a great way to keep your staff cool. Fans are usually the most common go-to when it comes to cooling down.
- Light-coloured loose clothing is an absolute must. Lighter clothing doesn’t absorb and trap the heat as much as dark clothing.
- Keep your body shaded from direct heat where possible. For example, employees should be wearing hats in the sun.
- Drinking plenty of fluids is key. The body requires more water in warmer environments.
What is Heat Stress?
Heat stress includes a variety of conditions where the body is put under stress from overheating. Heat-related illnesses can include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat rash or heat stroke and all of them come with their own symptoms and treatments. The different symptoms can range from profuse sweating to dizziness and fainting.
Who’s Affected By Heat Stress?
Certain factors and behaviours can put people at greater risk of suffering from heat stress at work. These include:
- Age - every worker is vulnerable to suffering from heat stress at work but the older you are, the easier you’ll find that you’ll suffer.
- Employees with heart, lung or kidney issues, diabetes and those on other medications are more susceptible to heat stress.
- Diet pills, sedatives, tranquilisers and caffeinated drinks can all exacerbate heat stress effects. Make sure that your team are well aware of the dangers that putting these items into their body can have.
Taking part in strenuous or prolonged outdoor physical activities can induce heat stress. It’s important that your team are kitted out in the appropriate protective work gear. Click here to take a look at our summer range.
Symptoms of Heat Stress
Signs of heat stress are often overlooked by the victim. Be sure to watch out for the following symptoms:
- You may be first confused or unable to concentrate.
- You may feel other side effects including dizziness, dehydration, cramps, profuse sweating and vomiting.
- The original symptom may then develop into something more severe - including fainting or collapsing.
If a member of your team starts to feel the effects of heat stress, move them to a cool shaded area with a bottle of water. You must inform the site supervisor too.
Keep Your Team Safe This Summer
Heat stress isn’t the only thing you should be protecting your team from during the summer.
The summer months come with their own particular risks and you should educate your staff accordingly. Download our free guide to learn more about keeping your workforce as safe as possible in the warmer months of the year.