The importance of keeping industrial workers cool during a heatwave

worker in high visibility workwear wiping his brow with his arm from the heat

There are many great things about working in the summer months. Not only are the brighter, warmer days an instant mood and motivation booster for employees (especially if they’re working in the great outdoors, as many industrial employees are required), but increased daylight hours mean that there’s more time to get work completed, which helps projects to be finished quicker. However, summer also brings with it the risk of heatwaves, so employers need to be extra prepared to keep industrial workers cool, comfortable and protected in the event of one occurring.

Although heatwaves are great news for beach lovers and sun worshippers, working outside during one can be very uncomfortable, leading to sunburn, heatstroke, and dehydration. Each of these conditions can negatively affect your worker’s performance, and in some cases, have serious health implications. This is something that’s especially vital, with the UK’s recent bout of heatwaves set to continue.

As an employer, it’s your legal obligation to protect the health and well-being of your employees when they work in various conditions. Therefore, if something does happen, you will be held accountable if you don’t take appropriate measures to protect your employees from the heat.

Here are phs Besafe’s top tips to ensure your compliance by keeping industrial workers cool during a heatwave…

Schedule working hours around the weather

As it typically requires specialist machinery to be operated and heavy materials to be lifted and moved, working on industrial sites can be a strenuous and exhausting activity. This is particularly true during heatwaves when unnaturally high temperatures and humid conditions increase the risk of heatstroke, and sunstroke. To prevent this from happening, you should be scheduling your workers’ shifts and any breaks taken during this time to avoid them working during the hottest part of the day (between 12pm and 3pm). Heatstroke causes unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, cramps and intense thirst, and it can be fatal if it’s not properly and prompted treated.

Provide lightweight workwear

It’s vital to protect industrial employees from common workplace hazards (such as being hit by moving vehicles and falling objects) by supplying them with high visibility workwear that’s compliant with the relevant safety standards. During warmer weather, however, it’s particularly vital that these garments are constructed from a lightweight, breathable material and that they don’t restrict movement. At phs Besafe, our safety workwear includes features such as movement panels, elasticated waists and cuffs, and articulated knees. You should also give your employees the option to swap their long sleeved high visibility polos for short sleeved polos to help them keep cool.

Keep your employees hydrated

Dehydration is another condition that’s more likely to occur during a heatwave, and it can do far more than make your employees feel dizzy and lightheaded with an uncomfortably dry mouth, lips and eyes. In fact, dehydration (which can occur as a result of heatstroke), can cause seizures, brain damage, and in some cases, even death if it’s left untreated. As dehydration occurs when you lose more fluids than you take in, you should encourage your staff to take regular breaks to eat and drink during the working day, and have easy access to cold water on site. This could be in the form of a plumbed-in watercooler, or a supply of free bottled water.

Protect staff from the sun’s rays

Finally, when working outdoors or in direct sunlight, sunscreen should be applied to exposed areas of skin at least 30 minutes before going outside, and be reapplied at frequent intervals (which is typically every few hours). This will reduce the risk of sunburn, which isn’t just uncomfortable; it can make you more susceptible to developing skin cancer later on in life. As well as providing industrial workers with an adequate supply of sunscreen on site, you should educate them on the importance of wearing sun protection, and make them aware of the common misconceptions associated with sun damage. As an example, they may not know that you should wear it indoors, as UVA rays can penetrate glass!

As Sid the Seagull from the famous advert says; “Slip, Slop, Slap! Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat” whenever you’re going to be exposed to sunlight.

Image curisoty of abc.

At phs Besafe, our protective workwear is suitable for all seasons and weather conditions. For more information on our range of garments, contact us today.

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