How to Avoid Heat Stress in the Workplace

news 11 Jun 2021

With outside temperatures starting to rise, now is the perfect time to ensure your employees are protected from the effects of heat stress in the workplace.

But what is heat stress, what problems can it cause and how can it be prevented? Find out in our latest blog...

Working in the heat text overlayed over sunshine and blue sky

What is heat stress?

Heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. As well as the air temperature, factors such as work rate, humidity and clothing worn while working may lead to heat stress. It’s important that employers and employees are aware of how to work safely in heat, the factors that can lead to heat stress and how to reduce the risk of it occurring.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke explained

The effects of heat stress

The body reacts to heat by sweating and by increasing the blood flow to the skin’s surface. Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways. Symptoms include being unable to concentrate, heat rash, severe thirst, fainting, heat exhaustion, nausea and headaches. The most severe is heat stroke which can lead to loss of consciousness and even death.

Risk Assessments

If there a possibility of heat stress occurring, employers should carry out a risk assessment. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) provides specific advice on carrying out heat stress risk assessments and a Heat Stress Checklist is available

Workplace Regulations

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals with temperature in indoor workplaces and states that: ‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

The law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature, but the temperature in working environments should normally be at least 16°C or 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort. A meaningful maximum temperature cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in hot environments such as bakeries and kitchens. However, in these industries it is still possible to work safely providing appropriate controls are implemented

How to Avoid Heat Stress

Examples of methods to keep cool in the workplace

Control the Temperature

The HSE advises that the risks of heat stress can be reduced by removing or reducing the sources of heat where possible. But there are means that can be used to control the temperature using engineered solutions. One of the solutions that the HSE advises is to use fans or air conditioning. It is advised that employees should only enter when the temperature is below a set level or at cooler times of the day. Periodic rest breaks and rest facilities should be provided in cooler conditions, as well as cool water to drink.

Control Measures

According to the HSE, there are six main control methods you can use to enhance comfort for employees:

  • Replace hot air with cold
  • Dehumidify the air as required
  • Increase air movement by ventilation or air conditioning
  • Reduce draught discomfort by directing the ventilation or air movement so that it doesn't blow directly onto the employees, for example using baffles

Separate the source of heat from the employee:

  • Erect barriers that shield or insulate the work area or restrict access
  • Redesign jobs to remove the employee from the area

Cooling Range

At Sunbelt Climate Control, we offer a wide range of air conditioning units and dehumidifiers to hire or purchase. These products keep employees cool, productivity high and reduce the risk of heat stress, especially during the summer months. Our range includes portable air conditioning units such as mini spot coolers which can easily be moved from one area to another and are designed for the cooling of small to medium sized spaces, as well as evaporative coolers which cool air through the evaporation of water and are idea for use in non-vented environments.

There are a number of factors to take into consideration when you choose an air conditioning unit. From the cooling output you need to cool the area in question, to the best place to position it and the sound level. Our air conditioning specialists can carry out a site survey at your premises to help you decide which is the most effective and efficient cooling solution for you. 

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