Can it ever be too hot to work in the UK?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice is that the temperature in all inside workplaces must be reasonable. Employers should take every possible step to ensure their employees are safe and comfortable.
Vulnerable people and their support workers are at an increased risk of dehydration and heat stress. A factsheet, titled “Heatwave”, was prepared by the NHS and has been updated with “information from an English evaluation of previous heatwaves and from the World Health Organization’s EuroHEAT study. It is part of a national programme to reduce the health risks by advising people what to do in the event of a heatwave, before it happens.” Follow this link to read the factsheet.
We set out below some useful information from the publication:
Managers must encourage support workers to follow these few simple tips for keeping safe:
- Keep hydrated: Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink. Keep a water bottle with you all day and drink little and often. Avoid caffeinated drinks.
- Take more frequent breaks: Wearing PPE/facemasks for an extended period can increase the effects of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Make arrangements to take more frequent breaks wherever possible where you can spend time without your facemask. Run your hands under a cold tap and splash cool water on your face.
- Check the colour of urine: Dark coloured urine can often signify dehydration.
How to keep body temperature down
It is important for staff working in the care sector to know how to keep down the body temperature of the person they care for. Here are seven tips:
- Ensure that they reduce their levels of physical exertion
- Suggest they take regular cool showers or baths, or at least have an overall body wash
- Dress them in light, loose cotton clothes to absorb perspiration and prevent skin irritation
- Splash cool water on their face and the back of their neck. A damp cloth on the back of the neck helps to regulate temperature
- Offer cold food at mealtimes, particularly salads and fruit with a high-water content
- Offer regular drinks, preferably water or fruit juice, but avoid alcohol and caffeine (tea, coffee, colas).
- Monitor their daily fluid intake, particularly if they have several carers or are not always able to drink unaided.
The main causes of illness and death during a heatwave are respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, there are specific heat-related illnesses:
- heat cramps – caused by dehydration and loss of electrolytes
- heat rash – small, red, itchy papules
- heat oedema – mainly in the ankles, due to vasodilatation and retention of fluid
- heat syncope – dizziness and fainting, due to dehydration, vasodilatation and certain medications
- heat exhaustion – left untreated, heat exhaustion may evolve into heatstroke
- heatstroke – this can lead to a medical emergency, with symptoms of:
- hot dry skin
Keeping out the heat
Attention must also be taken of the environment in which people are cared in:
- Keep curtains closed on windows exposed to the sun while the temperature outside is higher than it is inside
- Keep the vulnerable person out of the sun, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Advise them to stay in the shade and to wear hats, sunscreen, thin scarves, and light clothing if going outside.
Further on-line advice is available at NHS UK which offers some useful guidance on looking after yourself and others during the hot weather.
If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.
T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.
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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, and small businesses, from recruitment through to exit.