Summer means an increased risk of heat stress, especially in workplaces that are not air-conditioned.
Imagine how much worse it would be if you were working in that heat all day!
That’s what workers around the world are dealing with every summer, as they endure dangerous levels of heat stress. Heat stress can cause health problems and even death if not treated properly.
In this post, we’ll discuss what heat stress in a workplace , its effects on the body, and some steps employers can take to protect their workers.
What is heat stress in a workplace?
Heat stress results when workers are exposed to extreme heat conditions, either through outdoor hot weather and/or direct sunlight exposure, sustained demanding physical activity, heat generated by machinery or tools, excessive heat through clothing, or a combination of all the above.
Health consequences may directly include dehydration, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, syncope, rhabdomyolysis, burns, and heat rashes. Neurological manifestations of these illnesses can include confusion, irritability, seizures, light-headedness, and dizziness.
This may result in productivity losses due to low physical activity tolerance, decreased work ability and ability to complete mental tasks, and increased risk of accidental injury.
Heat stress in a workplace can come from many sources. The most common source of heat stress is exposure to high temperatures, either through working in hot environments or through wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) that doesn’t allow the body to cool down. Other sources of heat stress include physical exertion, dehydration and not having access to cool, fresh air.
Types of Heat Stress/ Effects of heat stress on the body
Heat stress can have a number of effects on the body, ranging from mild to severe. There are four main types of heat stress that can occur in a workplace:
Heat cramps are muscle pains or spasms that can occur when the body is dehydrated.
Heat exhaustion is a condition that can occur when the body has lost too much fluid through sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Heatstroke is a more serious condition that can occur when the body’s temperature rises to 41°C or higher. This can lead to unconsciousness and even death. Symptoms of heatstroke include high body temperature, altered mental state, confusion, seizure, and loss of consciousness.
Heat rash is a skin irritation that can occur when the sweat glands are blocked. This can lead to an itchy or prickly feeling on the skin.
Examples of heat stress in a workplace
There are many examples of heat stress in a workplace. The most common examples include:
Working in hot environments, such as foundries, kitchens, and laundries
Working in direct sunlight, such as construction workers, road crews, and agricultural workers
Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) that doesn’t allow the body to cool down, such as firefighters and hazardous materials workers
Physical exertion, such as soldiers and athletics.
Places where heat stress can occur in a workplace
Glass and rubber factories, steel mills, commercial bakeries, and kitchens.
Working in a factory can be hot and sweaty work. The heat is often generated by the machinery and the processes that are taking place. In some cases, the work environment may also be poorly ventilated.
Glass and rubber factories
Glass and rubber factories are often hot places to work. The heat is generated by the furnaces that are used to melt the glass or rubber. The work environment is often poorly ventilated, which can make the heat even more intense.
Working in a steel mill can be hot and dangerous work. The heat is generated by the furnaces that are used to melt the steel. The work environment is often poorly ventilated, which can make the heat even more intense.
Working in a commercial bakery can be hot and sweaty work. The heat is generated by the ovens that are used to bake the bread and pastries. The work environment is often poorly ventilated, which can make the heat even more intense.
Working in a kitchen can be hot and sweaty work. The heat is generated by the ovens and stoves that are used to cook the food. The work environment is often poorly ventilated, which can make the heat even more intense.
How to manage heat stress in a workplace
If someone is suffering from heat stress, it’s important to act quickly.
The first step is to move them to a cool, shady area. If possible, remove any excess clothing and have them lie down. Apply cool, wet towels to their skin or give them a cool bath. If they are conscious, give them small sips of cool water.
If their condition doesn’t improve or if they become unconscious, call for medical help immediately. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Tips for avoiding heat stress during summer months
Control the temperature, take regular breaks, stay hydrated, and wear loose-fitting clothing.
There are a number of things that employers can do to help protect their workers from heat stress. Some of these measures include:
Control the temperature
One of the best ways to control the temperature in a workplace is to use air conditioning. Air conditioning can help to keep the air cool and circulating, which can make a big difference in the comfort of workers.
Another way to control the temperature is to use fans. Fans can help to circulate the air and keep workers cool. Employers should also make sure that workers have access to fresh, cool water so that they can stay hydrated.
Taking regular breaks
Another way to avoid heat stress is to take regular breaks. Workers should be given a chance to rest and cool down every few hours. Breaks should be taken in a cool, shady area if possible.
Providing cool, fresh water
It is important for workers to stay hydrated in order to avoid heat stress. Employers should provide cool, fresh water for workers to drink throughout the day. Water coolers are good options for workplace.
Wearing loose-fitting clothing
One of the best ways to avoid heat stress is to wear loose-fitting clothing. Clothes that are tight or made of heavy materials can make the body heat up more. Loose-fitting, light-colored clothing will help workers stay cool.
Training workers on the signs and symptoms of heat stress
Workers should know how to sign and symptoms of heat stress so that they can take action if they start to feel ill. Employers should provide training on the signs and symptoms of heat stress as well as what to do if they start to feel ill.
Planning for emergencies
Emergencies can happen at any time, so it is important for employers to have a plan in place. Employers should know how to contact emergency services and how to evacuate the workplace if necessary.
Monitoring the weather forecast
Employers should monitor the weather forecast so that they can be prepared for hot days. If the forecast predicts high temperatures, employers should take measures to protect workers from heat stress.
Adjusting work schedules
On days when the weather is hot, employers should consider adjusting work schedules. Workers can start their shift earlier in the day or take a break during the hottest part of the day.
Using heat-resistant equipment
Employers should consider using heat-resistant equipment in hot workplaces. This type of equipment can help to protect workers from the heat.
Providing cool showers
Cool showers can be a great way for workers to cool down after a shift. Employers should provide cool shower for workers to use during their breaks.