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Employment

Keeping Your Cool

Heat stroke

Monday, August 5, 2019

Like Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis would testify, “some like it hot”; but unfortunately, not everyone and record-breaking high temperatures are raising some very serious concerns about the working environment.

We’ve enjoyed, or for some endured, record-breaking temperatures over the past couple of weeks. Climate experts are warning that we might need to get used to this level of extreme weather as a consequence of global warming. So on top of the need for environmental action what should be doing to protect and support our staff?

As a result of the previous infrequent hot spells, we’re not geared up for the extreme temperatures and not all working environments have the luxury of fully working air conditioning.

Heat can also affect our mood and cognitive abilities. Being too hot or cold is not conducive to being productive.

So, what can you do if your staff are grumbling, hot, sweaty and unhappy?

Technically there are no set limits for what might be considered too hot to work but it would be entirely reasonable and good practice to consider the following tips.

  1. Look to the basics – check if you can create a cooler atmosphere by allowing a flow of air, opening windows (as long as it’s safe to do so), using fans, upgrading the air conditioning units if they’re failing.
  2. Permit a relaxation of any formal dress codes. Ties are far less prevalent these days but some places of work still require jackets. Give thought to permitting shorts for men but be mindful of levels of decency and taking too relaxed a position when protective clothing is required.
  3. Consider the possibility of changing the working day to start earlier when cooler and finishing earlier in the day.
  4. Provide staff with access to cool water and refreshing drinks.
  5. If staff are working outside remind them of the dangers of direct sunlight and provide bottled drinks, sun cream and hats/ caps.
  6. Make sure first aiders are aware of signs of heatstroke and what to do in the event of staff becoming distressed.

While symptoms can vary from person to person, the warning signs of heatstroke can include complaints of sudden and severe fatigue, nausea, dizziness, light-headedness, and may or may not include sweating. If a co-worker appears to be disorientated or confused (including euphoria) or has unaccountable irritability, malaise or flu-like symptoms, the worker should be moved to a cool location and get medical help immediately. [COSH]

  1. Consider if the work to be undertaken is appropriate if physically demanding you may wish to reduce the time spent on certain tasks.
  2. Allow staff to take more frequent breaks to help stay cool, mindful of the fact more liquids may be consumed at this time.

Heat Exhaustion – NHS Tips

  • Move the person 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 also OK
  • Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good too.
  • However, if they do not recover within 30 minutes, then what follows is heatstroke. It is a medical emergency and you should call 999.

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