TOOLBOX TALK - Working in hot environments

    TOOLBOX TALK – Working in hot environments

    Working in hot climates can lead to additional risk and health impacts on employees from sun burn to skin cancer and even death in extreme cases.

    Heat illness can strike anyone at any time and can happen without you realising you are suffering.

    The following information will help you to understand some of the causes, the symptoms and what to do in an emergency.

    Factors that increase the risk of heat illness (not exhaustive)

  • A rise in core body temperature of over 38°C.
  • A lack of water and electrolytes in the blood stream.
  • A lack of sleep.
  • A concurrent illness, such as a respiratory infection or medication.
  • Being overweight.
  • A high work rate.
  • Recent alcohol consumption.
  • Having had a previous case of heat illness.
  • Effects of heat on the body

  • High core body temperature results in increased blood flow to the skin, which results in water loss as sweat and additional loss of electrolytes.
  • As the core temperature rises, sweating increases and more blood is pumped to the skin to remove heat.
  • If the core temperature rises too high – over 40°C – we lose the ability to sweat and cool down and the core temperature continues to rise.
  • If not treated, the person may collapse and in severe cases can be fatal.
  • Symptoms

    Symptoms are not always obvious – they can occur in any order and progress rapidly.

  • Sunburn: Hot, red and sometimes blistered skin
  • Heat Rash (also known as prickly heat): painful, itchy, red rash on the skin, usually in warm moist areas such as the groin or armpits
  • Heat Cramp: intense sweating, muscle cramps
  • Heat Exhaustion: thirst, fatigue, dizziness, moist skin
  • Heat Stroke: As for heat exhaustion and additionally: hot dry skin; absence of sweating; confusion; agitation; loss of co-ordination; stumbling; convulsions; loss of consciousnessWorking in Hot Environments
  • Emergency Action

    Speed is essential in the treatment of heat illness. Leaving it too long may mean that no treatment will be effective and could lead to death. If you or you see others displaying symptoms that could be heat cramp, heat exhaustion and heat stroke:

  • Call for your first aider and an ambulance.
  • Get the injured person into shade or a cool environment.
  • Remove as much clothing and PPE from the affected person as possible.
  • If the person is conscious:

  • Give cool water to sip and elevate their legs.
  • Spray them with water or cover them with damp cloths or towels and start fanning the skin.
  • If the person in unconscious:

  • Place in the recovery position (they may vomit).
  • Spray them with water or cover them with damp cloths or towels and start fanning the skin.
  • For sunburn and heat rash (Prickly heat):

  • Use sun cream or cover up or erect some shade to work under.
  • For prickly heat, ensure you wash all soaps and deodorant off when bathing to stop pores from becoming blocked.
  • Wash all soap, deodorant and sun cream off, use alcohol wipes or gels to calm the skin Prevention
  • Prevention

  • Undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment taking account of environmental conditions and individual risk factors
  • Where possible reschedule work to cooler parts of the day or work in the shade
  • Eat a balanced diet and eat regularly
  • Ensure adequate fluid intake and provide plenty of cool water
  • Ensure you get adequate sleep
  • If necessary, use work/rest regimes and slow the rate of work
  • Provide cooled rest facilities with hand cooling stations
  • Provide suitable information and training on heat illness, including recognition of symptoms
  • Supervise the workforce to ensure they are drinking and not struggling to cope.
  • Have adequate first aid arrangements and use buddy aid.
  • Keep exposed skin covered up, but choose lightweight clothing where possible
  • Apply sun cream regularly (at least SPF 30).

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