How to help ensure safety in your workplace amid the heatwave

It’s the subject that has got much of the UK talking in recent days, and which will remain relevant right through this, and other summers: the potential risks of elevated heat, and how these can be managed. 

There might be a temptation among some of us to dismiss hot weather in the summer as simply a fact of life during this season. However, the Met Office issuing its first-ever red alert for hot weather is news that needs to be taken extremely seriously. 

Keeping a close eye on weather forecasts and avoiding spending too much time outdoors during the hottest times of the day are ‘common sense’ heatwave measures that not everyone nonetheless heeds. 

But what about some of the tips that are not so widely known, and which could be literal ‘lifesavers’ in some cases – or at least help prevent a trip to the hospital – for your colleagues or other users of your organisation’s buildings? 

Know what to do if someone collapses in front of you 

The notion of someone collapsing in front of you in the heat is – while dramatic – unfortunately not as remote a possibility in warmer conditions as you might hope. 

So, it is important to inform yourself on the most urgent steps to take. If it does happen, go up to the person and see if you can do anything to immediately help them. Check whether they can hear you or if they are unresponsive; you can do this by gently pushing them on the shoulders and asking, “are you OK? Can you hear me?” 

If they aren’t responding to you and are not breathing normally, this could be a sign that they are in cardiac arrest. In that case, you will need to think about immediately starting chest compressions. 

If there isn’t any response from them but their breathing is normal, you will need to turn them into the recovery position. This is a method for turning a person onto one side to keep their airway open. 

Another vital step at this point will – of course – be calling 999. When you do, put your phone on speakerphone, leaving you free to provide first aid to the casulaty. From here, the call handler will be able to tell you what to do. 

Be well-informed on the different heat-related conditions 

The various conditions that commonly arise at times of escalated temperatures each have respective symptoms that it will be greatly useful for you to be aware of in advance. 

There are key differences, for example, between heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The former can easily happen to someone who spends an extended period of time in very hot conditions to which they are not accustomed. It is caused by a loss of salt and water from the body, which usually arises as a consequence of excessive sweating. 

The typical symptoms of heat exhaustion include the likes of headache, dizziness, confusion, and feeling sick. If you see someone suffering from symptoms like this in the heat, you should help them lie down somewhere cool and raise their legs. You should also give them a lot of water or isotonic sports drinks to drink, and check their breathing, pulse, and responsiveness. Also be prepared to call 999 if you are concerned about their condition. 

Heatstroke, meanwhile, is even more serious than heat exhaustion, posing a potential risk to life. It is associated with symptoms including headache, dizziness, hot flushed and dry skin, and a full bounding pulse, as well as a body temperature exceeding 40 degrees C, or 104 F. 

If you see symptoms like these, it is crucial to move the person to a cool location and remove their outer clothing, before calling 999 . Sit them down and wrap them in a cool, wet sheet if one is available; otherwise, fan them or sponge them down with cold water to help keep their temperature down. 

Once their temperature appears to have returned to normal, replace the wet sheet with a dry sheet, and continue to keep an eye on them until help arrives, including checking their temperature, breathing, pulse, and level of response. 

Undertake responsible training 

You will be in a better position to respond in the appropriate way in the event if someone in your workplace becomes injured or ill, maybe suffering ill effects from the heat, if you have received suitable training in this. 

Our own courses here at Actionable Intelligence include mandatory courses like first aid – including basic life support – as well as complex care courses such as falls prevention and management. These forms of training could be invaluable for you and your workers not just this summer, but for months and years to come.