We’re in the very midst of summer, which means the rising temperatures are an added risk to your workforce. The danger of heat stress is a very real one, and it’s important to know how to manage these risks for your workers. Aside from keeping them safe, happy and productive on-site, the way you navigate work in harsh conditions can also impact the reputation of your business, and ensuring a positive employee experience is key for attracting and retaining quality talent in the long term.
To help you maintain onsite health and safety during the heat waves, here is our helpful advice on managing work in hot conditions.
Preventing Overheated Workers
Stopping heat stress from developing in the first place is the best-case scenario, so let’s take a look at some of the best tips you can share with your onsite workers to ensure they’re operating at top capacity.
Our bodies sweat to fight against overheating, but if we aren’t able to sweat efficiently due to dehydration, working in the direct sun or restrictive clothing, it will be much harder to stay cool. Dehydration can even occur inside, especially if workers are near heat-producing machinery. Avoiding prolonged exposure to extreme heat and wearing lightweight clothing (where safe/appropriate) is a good start.
Workers should also avoid antiperspirant deodorants (again, to encourage sweating and therefore temperature regulation) and keep up their fluids. Plain water is always better than caffeinated or sugary drinks.
Ensure that workers are encouraged to take regular breaks to prevent overexertion, and consider adding extra ones when the conditions are harsh. Monitor overtime and cut down on incentives to work additional hours, as some people may not recognise the impact of heat exposure until it’s too late. If you really need someone to work longer hours, try instead to stagger the start and finish times with longer breaks to keep them healthy.
Ask for help
Employees and temps alike should feel empowered to speak up if they’re feeling overheated and lend each other support if needed. This could mean helping with tasks or just keeping an eye out for signs of distress. It’s a good idea to put a clear system in place that tells people exactly what to do and who to speak to if they or somebody else needs help – and explain this protocol during site inductions.
Wear suitable clothing
Every person onsite needs to wear the appropriate clothes and safety gear, plus sunscreen and hats to keep out the harsh UV rays of the sun. It might seem obvious, but many people neglect the basics when they are focussed on other priorities. Some key pieces of equipment to have available include:
- Safety sunglasses
- Ice packs
- Cooling vests
Note that if a worker is demonstrating symptoms of heat stress, it’s important to remove any unnecessary PPE or tight closing that may prevent sweat evaporation and air circulation to help cool them down.
Recognising Heat Stress
Although these guidelines can significantly reduce the likelihood of heat stress occurring in the workplace, it’s not possible to minimise the risk entirely. With this in mind, it’s important that everyone on site is educated on the symptoms of heat stress so they are able to recognise affected co-workers. As we mentioned before, encouraging a culture of open communication helps give people the confidence to escalate health and safety concerns if necessary – and you, in turn, can call for medical attention.
Some of the most common symptoms of heat stress include nausea, fatigue, headaches, dark urine, clammy skin and irritability. These symptoms, if not treated promptly, may lead to heatstroke – which can be serious or even fatal in some circumstances.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that heat stress can come on quickly and subtly, so taking steps to prevent it in the first place is vital. By carefully managing this aspect of onsite health and safety, you will maintain healthy, happy and effective employees, regardless of the conditions.
For your next industrial recruitment drive, come talk to our team at Southside Staffing – we’re here to support you with all the labour-hire requirements for your next project.