Working in high temperatures

Canberra, ACT

Photo by Cimexus via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

As large parts of the UK are basking in temperatures we have come to associate mainly with holidays in sunnier climes, many are faced with the difficult situation of staying safe whilst working in hot environments. In countries where extended periods of sunshine and heat are the norm, workers are more accustomed to working in high temperatures and habitually take precautions against heat stress injuries and heat stroke.

Heat stroke is one of the most serious heat-related conditions and it occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature (see also our recent blog about working in hot and cold conditions). The symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • an extremely high body temperature;
  • red, hot and dry skin with no visible sweating;
  • rapid, strong pulse;
  • throbbing headache;
  • dizziness and/or nausea;
  • unconsciousness.

Employers/managers should ensure that a number precautions are taken for those who are working in hot occupational (indoor and outdoor) environments. Workers should:

  • drink water often throughout the day;
  • avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar;
  • limit outdoor work to mornings and evenings and/or introduce work/rest cycles;
  • wear light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher;
  • be given the opportunity to build up tolerance to working in the heat.

For guidance on how to look after the health of employees in hot environments, as well as for advice on work-related health issues, call the free Health for Work Adviceline on 0800 0 77 88 44.

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