Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Is Your Company Fully Prepared For Heat Stress This Summer?
Posted by David Cant on July 26, 2013
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Health and Safety & Heat StressIf there’s one thing we British are known for it’s complaining about the weather. For months now the conversations I have heard regarding this seem to have been along the lines of what atrocious weather we’ve had all spring, and will summer ever arrive. Just recently that’s changed, and now we’re all moaning about how unbearably hot it is as we struggle to work.

On a brighter note it is at least only about 150 days until Christmas, and of course the days have been drawing in for a few weeks now. But in the meantime we do face a real danger, and it isn’t just the possibility of yet more complaints about the weather.

Heat stress is a very real danger in the workplace, and it is something which those in health and safety positions of responsibility need to be very aware of. Whilst in some industries heat stress is a regular risk that’s understood, monitored and dealt with appropriately, in others it may be that the recent changes in weather have been introducing a new level of risk which isn’t covered by existing health and safety policies or risk assessments.

Which Types Of Business Or Industry May Be At Risk?

There are obviously some businesses which are more prone to heat stress than others. For example, those who work in bakeries or in foundries will certainly be aware of the almost constant risk of overheating, and there will be measures in place to deal with this risk.

However, there are some industries where heat risk isn’t normally an issue, but it becomes a new one at times such as these when the ambient temperature rises dramatically, especially for prolonged periods of time. For example, in asbestos removal operations where near full body protective clothing is worn this adds a very serious risk of overheating.

No one knows exactly how much longer this hot weather will last, but it is certainly a fact that we may find it returning again throughout the next few weeks or even months, and since summer is (at least in theory here in the UK) an annual event, it’s worth taking this opportunity to think about how adequately prepared your business is, and how protected your employees are.

What Are The Risks Of Heat Stress?

Obviously the first symptom is a feeling of increasing heat which in itself is likely to be uncomfortable. Increased sweating will also decrease comfort, and potentially introduces a health hazard where dripping sweat could fall into food or drink.

As the body’s heat continues to rise it is probable that employees will feel lethargic, possibly nauseous, and lightheaded. Headaches and vomiting may be possible, and in extreme cases a loss of consciousness or even death are possible.

An increase in the body’s core temperature results in a variety of physiological changes, the most obvious of which is of course sweating. But internally the arteries will expand to push blood nearer the surface of the skin, which results in a decrease of blood pressure unless the heart starts to pump harder. This all places a tremendous strain on the body, and in cases where the employee has an underlying condition relating to either blood pressure or the heart it can be extremely dangerous.

What Should Companies Do To Protect Against Heat Stress?

There is a great deal that can, and indeed should be done, but exactly what will depend partly on the nature of the business and partly on the conditions employees may find themselves in. The first thing which we would recommend is to download a copy of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) own leaflet called ‘Heat Stress In The Workplace’ here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg451.pdf

Additionally at Veritas Consulting we have Health and Safety Consultants who can offer specialist advice and recommendations regarding tackling heat stress at work, so feel free to call them on 0800 1488 677 for professional, independent help and advice.

About 

David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety Consultancy, Health and Safety Services, Health and Safety Support, Workplace Safety

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