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Working in hot weather – tips for keeping staff safe

As temperatures rise across parts of the world, it is important that employees know how to keep themselves safe and healthy while working in the hot weather.

What are the risks?

Common risks associated with high temperatures include sunburn, dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, rashes, eye damage, discomfort and even fainting.

In severe cases, overheating can cause heat exhaustion and heatstroke, both of which are serious conditions which require urgent attention.

Heat exhaustion happens when an individual loses too much fluid and salt from sweating in hot conditions. While the body temperature usually remains normal, heat exhaustion can cause symptoms such as; excessive sweating, dizziness, paleness, headaches, muscle cramps, nausea, tiredness, weakness, fainting and clammy skin.

Heatstroke is more severe than heat exhaustion and occurs if the body temperature rises above 40C (104F). Symptoms of heatstroke include; confusion, slurred speech, seizures, nausea and vomiting, flushed skin, rapid breathing, racing heart rate, headache and unresponsiveness.

Tips for keeping safe

Whether working in an office environment, travelling between appointments or working outdoors, there are some simple steps that can be followed to ensure personal safety is maintained.

  • Stay hydrated – staying hydrated will help your body to maintain a normal body temperature. Tea, coffee and soda should be avoided as much as possible as they can be dehydrating. Make sure you carry a bottle of water if travelling between appointments or working outdoors
  • Wear sunscreen – sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool itself and can contribute to skin cancers. To protect yourself from sunburn, sunscreen of at least SPF15 should be applied every 1-2 hours
  • Wear quality sunglasses if working outdoors to protect eyes from the sun
  • Take regular breaks inside or in the shade if working outside to cool down
  • Where possible, avoid staying in the sun between 11 am and 3 pm when the sun is at its highest point
  • If working in an office space, ask your employer to provide a fan if there is no air con in the building

Care for heat exhaustion

When a person suffers from heat exhaustion, they should find a cool space and drink plenty of water. If the symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour, it may be necessary to seek medical attention.

Care for heatstroke

Heatstroke requires emergency treatment as untreated it can damage the brain, heart, kidney and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing the risk of serious complications and even death.

The condition is life-threatening and emergency services should be called immediately. While waiting for the emergency services to arrive, the person should be moved to a cool environment, excess clothing removed and the person cooled with whatever means are available – by pouring cold water over the person or placing ice packs or cold wet towels to their body.

Working alone

If working alone, there may not be anyone around to provide immediate assistance in the case of heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

While in serious cases the emergency, services should be called directly, fainting or a loss of consciousness leaves an individual alone and at high risk of serious damage to their health. A lone worker app or device with man-down functionality will ensure that someone is immediately alerted in such cases.

With StaySafe, a non-movement or man down alert can be automatically triggered in the event of a fall from fainting or even loss of consciousness while sitting down. The alert will be sent through to a monitor who is able to view the lone worker’s location and send assistance directly to them.

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