Traditionally, the British summer can be a bit of an anti-climax. Umbrellas rather than parasols. Anoraks rather than bikinis. A steaming mug of Bovril rather than… well, you get the idea. Perhaps it’s for this reason that us Brits tend to be a little blasé when it comes to preparing ourselves for life in hot conditions.
Over the last couple of weeks, however, much of the UK has been enjoying (or enduring) a sweltering heatwave, with mercury levels setting new records with no signs of abating. With the hot weather set to continue and warnings issued by the Met Office and Public Health England, it’s imperative to stay safe and healthy within the workplace.
Whether it’s in the office, on a construction site, with power presses or abrasive wheels, working in hot conditions at work can often increase the risk of dehydration and heat stress, particularly for those working within engineering and manufacturing who are exposed to high temperatures with poor ventilation.
To help you on your journey to achieving optimum comfort during summer, we’ve put together 7 tips to minimise your risk of heat illness and to stay safe and healthy at work.
#1 Don’t wait until you’re thirsty
The golden rule is probably not to wait until you’re thirsty before having a drink. If you’re thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated. Instead drink small amounts frequently at regular intervals throughout the day. 250mls every 15-20 minutes is the recommendation for working in hot conditions.
#2 Monitor your number ones!
Ok, so everyone should know this but urine colour is the easiest way to monitor your hydration levels and know whether you should be consuming more fluids. If you’re unsure what the colour of your wee means – urine colour chart guides can be easily accessed online.
Make sure to drink plenty of fluids in the hours before your day starts so that you’re not starting your working day with a fluid deficit. By fluid we don’t mean a glass of wine!
#4 Avoid alcohol before work
Whilst many of us enjoy a ‘small’ tipple in the beer garden after work, alcohol is a diuretic and over consumption can cause severe dehydration. If alcohol is consumed within 24-36 hours before you start work your dehydration levels will only worsen throughout the day.
#5 Limit your caffeine intake
We know this one’s probably a stretch too far, but for the purposes of this list avoid consuming caffeine before and during work (this includes coffee, tea and energy drinks). The reason being that caffeine is another source which has a diuretic effect which increases water loss and contributes to dehydration.
#6 Take adequate meal breaks
Whilst not always considered, food contains plenty of water and is one of the primary means by which we replace lost fluids. Eating food also helps to stimulate the thirst response, causing you to drink more. Another consideration is to ensure your diet includes lots of leafy greens, fresh fruit and nuts to help replenish the electrolytes lost through sweat.
#7 Work smarter – not harder
And finally, where possible schedule harder work and physically demanding tasks during cooler parts of the day (that might even include stuffy office meetings). Where this is unavoidable, consider sharing the load with another colleague and ensure adequate work-rest cycles are in place.
Still too hot? The HSE has some useful advice for employers about managing temperatures at work. If you’re interested in learning more about workplace safety, we have a wide range of occupational safety training courses available which you can view on our website.