After what seems like an eternity summer has finally rolled around bringing with it warm temperatures (hopefully) and lighter evenings. The downside is that it can also bring with it an increase in all kinds of accidents and mishaps as people cast off their thick winter wear.
Many people unfortunately have to keep working no matter how hot the weather becomes and extreme temperatures can cause problems for both indoor and outdoor workers. We have put together a few hints and tips on how you can stay safe this summer.
First of all we need to clear up a point that confuses many workers and this concerns legal working temperatures. The Health and Safety Executive’s own guidelines state that whilst a recommended minimum workplace temperature should be ‘at least’ 13-16°C there is no maximum. This is because it would be hard to set a maximum temperature in places like steel works or foundries. However Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that ‘during working hours the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable’.
If you are working in an environment where you have to wear personal protective equipment or heavy, reinforced clothing, the regulations advise employers to permit you to work at a slower rate. PPE or heavy clothing will prevent sweat evaporating from the skin and this can lead to heat stress so it is advisable to try and ensure you can access an area where you can cool down periodically. Make sure your protective clothing or PPE can dry out in between uses to ensure optimum efficiency.
If you are working in an office environment open as many windows as possible and/or use desk and floor fans to provide a cooling breeze.
People who work outdoors – builders, gardeners and road workers for instance – can often not notice the effects of heat creeping up on them. It is easy to be a little complacent thinking a British summer cannot do any harm but the fact is that incidences of skin cancer have been rising for many years now. One way to prevent skin damage is by wearing a sunscreen of at least factor 30. If possible avoid working in direct sun during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are at their most damaging.
In All Cases
Wear loose-fitting clothing where practicable. Footwear should always be appropriate for the task in hand but flip-flops are never advisable in work situations. Wear light cotton socks to prevent sweat-induced conditions. When outdoors wear a hat to prevent sunstroke and in all situations make sure that you keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
How to Recognise Heat Stress
You know things are becoming dangerous when you:-
*Start to lose the ability to concentrate
*Develop a heat rash
*Develop extreme thirst
If you feel any of these symptoms then stop working immediately, drink some water and sit down in a cool place until you cool down. If necessary call a doctor or access a first aid station.