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Heat Stress – the Risks

23 May 2022

Whilst it has been lovely to see the sun finally after the long cold months, with temperatures on the rise and likely to continue it is important to consider whether there is a risk of heat stress at work.

There is no legal maximum working temperature.  Employers are instead expected to comply with the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 to ensure that the temperature is at comfortable level (thermal comfort) and ensure they provide clean and fresh air.  This is a particular consideration in dusty environments.

The following industries are susceptible to heat stress all year around;

  • glass and rubber manufacturing plants
  • mines
  • compressed air tunnels
  • conventional and nuclear power plants
  • foundries and smelting operations
  • brick-firing and ceramics plants
  • boiler rooms
  • bakeries and catering kitchens
  • laundries

Other industries may only be more at risk in hot weather.

People over time will adapt to hot conditions such as by changing their work rate, taking regular breaks in a cool area, having cool drinks and removing layers of clothing.  This, however is not always possible such as when removing hazardous substances such as asbestos or working in other dusty environments.

Employers need to carry out risk assessments where they believe workers may be susceptible to heat stress or employees have raised concerns.  The risk assessment should consider;

  1. Work rate
  2. Working climate
  3. What clothing and PPE are being worn which may affect the employee’s ability to regulate their temperature.

This is because heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail.  It may not be obvious to someone just passing through or observing briefly that there is a risk.

Common symptoms of heat stress include;

  1. Fainting
  2. Heat rash
  3. Unable to concentrate
  4. Muscle cramps
  5. Extreme thirst

In addition there is the risk of it developing into Heat Exhaustion which includes symptoms of fatigue, nausea, damp skin, headache and dizziness or the more severe and potentially life threatening, if not detected at an early stage, symptoms of Heat Stroke which include hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventually loss of consciousness.

Should you suffer an accident at work or develop an illness due to exposure to a chemical or allergen at work, please feel free to contact our Personal Injury team who have over 30 years’ experience of helping people recover compensation on 01270 762325 or PI@poolealcock.co.uk. We are happy to help.

 

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