Keep employees safe and know how to deal with heat-related illness
Summer can bring numerous safety hazards – we are currently seeing a heatwave in southern Europe, and it’s best to be prepared if things heat up here too. As temperatures rise, it’s vital for employers to prioritise the well-being and safety of their staff. One safety challenge for employers is balancing productivity and output from employees working outdoors, and keeping them safe and well while working. Office workers may also have problems coping with the heat, so ensuring air conditioning systems are properly functioning is a must.
Scorching heat can pose a significant risk to employees, potentially leading to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. It’s important to emphasise the need to stay hydrated by providing adequate drinking water, encouraging regular breaks, and implementing policies that allow employees to adapt their clothing to stay cool. Electrolyte drinks can also help to replace minerals lost through perspiration.
Employees who work outdoors or in hot environments must be protected from the sun, which can lead to sunburn and long-term skin damage. Promote the use of sunscreen, sunglasses, and protective clothing and if possible, provide shaded areas or sun umbrellas to minimise direct sun exposure.
Recognise the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke – at work and at home
If anyone exhibits signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, it’s important to recognise the symptoms and react swiftly.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Cold, pale, clammy skin
Fast, weak pulse
Nausea or vomiting
Tiredness or weakness
If you or someone else is experiencing heat exhaustion:
Move to a cool place
Put cool, wet cloths on your body or take a cool bath
Get medical help if you or someone else is vomiting, or the symptoms get worse or persist for more than an hour
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
Body temperature of 103 F / 39.4 C or higher
Hot, red, dry, or damp skin
Fast, strong pulse
Here’s what to do if you or someone else is experiencing heat stroke:
Move the person to a cooler place
Put cool, wet cloths on their body or place them in a cool bath
The signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the same for both adults and children, but a baby or younger child may not be able to vocalise how they’re feeling. Ensure children are consistently drinking, urinating frequently, and that they look alert.
As we adapt to changes in the world’s climate, employers have a key role in helping to educate people about the risks of sun and heat exposure. Simple measures and common sense go a long way to minimise the risks to make sure everyone stays safe and well.