How to… beat the heat

02 August 2013
How to… beat the heat

Protect your customers and staff when temperatures soar

While Britain enjoys soaring temperatures and a long-awaited summer, it's a sad fact that with the glorious weather also comes health risks.

Extreme temperatures include 32°C and above, and can cause heat stress, heatstroke, dehydration, excessive rise in body temperature, excessive sweating and loss of concentration - not to mention sunburn.

Symptoms such as tiredness, weakness, thirst and dizziness, with occasional headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and fainting can occur, all of which are potentially hazardous and downright unpleasant 
in the workplace.

Fainting is particularly common because of increased blood flow, which sometimes causes blood to pool in 
the extremities rather than returning to the brain.

In some cases, heatstroke can be fatal unless promptly and adequately treated. Symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, convulsions and coma. The skin is hot and dry, temperature rises to 40°C, the pulse is rapid and blood pressure falls.

How to control the risks posed by high temperatures

1 Anyone suffering from heat stress should be moved to a cool, shaded area and immediately given water.

2 Some employees are more likely to have problems with working in excessively hot conditions than others. Younger employees and those more physically fit are less likely to have problems. Employees with heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes and those on medication are more likely to experience heat stress. Diet pills, certain types of tranquillisers, caffeinated drinks and excessive alcohol consumption can all exacerbate heat stress effects.

3 Avoid going outside during the hottest part of the day, ie, between 11am and 3pm.

4 Pregnant employees should also take care when working in hot environments, and pregnant customers should be seated in a cool, shaded area with a breeze or near a fan. There is a possibility of complications with the pregnancy if the body temperature exceeds 39ºC for prolonged periods of time.

5 When outside, advise staff to wear hats and apply a high-factor sun cream. Ensure customers are seated in the shade as much as possible.

6 Promote age-appropriate water play for children's play areas if possible.

7 Ensure a continuous supply of drinking water is available and clearly signposted.

8 Staff should be permitted to wear suitable vest tops or T-shirts, preferably manufactured from cotton or other breathable material.

9 Pull down the blinds to reduce solar gain.

10 Open windows - refer also to any site-specific risk assessment regarding open windows.

11 Ensure that your workforce has been trained to recognise the symptoms of heat stress and what they can do to help themselves, as well as knowing the basic first aid principles should they encounter a colleague or customer who has collapsed due to heat stress.

Pat Perry is executive chairman
of Perry Scott Nash

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