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Monday, 5 August 2013

Mitigating heat sickness in the workplace

Inasmuch as we love the freedom that summer presents us with in terms of the seemingly endless outdoor activities we are able to engage in when the weather is fair, summer presents its own health and safety risks. This certainly has an effect on the workplace: while July and August may see no peak in incidents of influenza, heat can have an adverse enough effect on workers such that performance is diminished, and such that there may even be several sick days taken off as a result. How can we reduce the unfavourable effects of heat in the workplace so that we're left to simply enjoy the summer climate? Here are the most effective ways to do this:

Hydration. As summer approaches, ensure that you know where in your workplace you can go for a steady, reliable supply of clean drinking water. If this is something difficult to locate or access, then come prepared daily with your own supply. If you are an employer, you should encourage good hydration in the workplace at all times, but most especially in the heat. Be sure that you provide workers with a dependable water supply, and encourage them to use it. In doing your part to promote good hydration, you are taking effective measures to protect the health of your employees. You'll likely see a quick improvement in performance as a result of doing this too.

Frequent breaks. As an employee, you obviously do not necessarily determine the number and the timing of the breaks you are permitted, but if you have any say in the matter, space your breaks out evenly throughout the day. Additionally, make good use of the breaks you have to actually rest, eat properly, and care for your body. All too often, because we are so busy, we use our breaks to get tasks and errands done, which just furthers our own exhaustion. Be sure you are resting well. If you are an employer, review your break policy to ensure that it allows your staff to properly recharge.

Moderate temperatures. Constantly fluctuating between hot and cold temperatures can be very stressful on the body, and can intensify the symptoms of heat exhaustion. Try to avoid this shock by doing what you can to keep the air around you at a consistent temperature. Do what you can to limit the amount of time you spend rushing out into scorching heat, and back into ultra cool air-conditioned zones.


Look out for each other. Both employers and employees are charged with the same task here: pay attention to those around you, in order to take note of the first signs of heat exhaustion—like fatigue, dizziness, and confusion—as soon as they strike. If you notice that somebody is unwell, send them home if it is within your authority to do so, or inform superiors of this otherwise.

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