Ways to keep cool in hot work environments

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In anticipation of the coming few months’ hot season — during which workplace accidents are found to be highest — managers and workers can adopt a set of strategies to avoid heat stress in their work environment.

Maker of hydration products Thorzt says heat stress can cause health and safety implications, from headaches to other more serious heat-related illnesses.

Ingesting crushed ice is a traditional but proven method to lower core body temperatures. This is likely to improve performance and worker productivity.

A PPE-free area should also be available for workers to cool down on a break or as required, while cooling vests provided for workers could be another option. Work sites should maintain adequate airflow, for example, with the help of cooling fans.

A bottle of water or electrolyte drink should also be provided to workers with easy access to refilling throughout their shifts.

Workers can also improve their tolerance to hot and humid conditions with exposure and time. This can be achieved through regular physical activity that promotes high sweat rates, making the transition to a hot workplace less stressful.

Individual workers should regulate their workload based upon how they are feeling – the harder one works, the more heat the body will produce.

While a loss of appetite is common in the heat, six to eight hours without food should be the limit when one is experiencing high sweat rates.

Sleeping is an important component of bodily recovery, but even more important is having a quality, uninterrupted sleep in a cool environment.

Companies can also take a proactive approach by educating workers to recognise the signs and symptoms of heat stress, equipping them to recognise their coworkers going through one.

An environmental monitoring can also include a range of indices to assess heat stress risk depending on climatic conditions. Further, workplace monitoring should pay close attention to workers’ skin and core body temperatures; their pre- and post-shift hydration; and their body mass change to update and match their hydration requirements.

Organisations should finally distribute a heat stress management policy detailing the responsibilities of personnel, from team members to senior leadership, on how to manage heat stress during hot conditions.