A complete guide to how to deal with heat in the workplace in summer

It might seem that there is no danger when it is warm and sunny. The opposite is true. Heat and sun in the workplace can become your greatest enemy.

Problems caused by extreme weather begin with inconspicuous nausea, but can end in a serious health problem.

It must not be too hot in the workplace

It is always pretty hot in some types of work. When you add summer temperatures of about 30 °C, the scene for a problem is set.

There must be a permissible micro climate in the workplace according to the Regulation. The exceptions include extremely hot days and workplaces where it is not possible to technically reduce the temperature of the technology used (for example, glassworks or rubber plants).

This micro climate depends on the type of work being carried out (its energy intensity) and other parameters. In general, however, the average workplace temperature should not exceed 26-30°C. The exact temperature calculation according to European law is as follows:

WORK CLASSTYPE OF WORKMAX. TEMPERATURE
I

Sitting with minimal physical activity - office and administrative work, etc.

27 °C
IIaMostly sitting with light manual work carried out using hands and arms - driving a car, moving light loads, etc.26 °C
IIbDriving a truck, tractor, bus, trolleybus, tram, etc.32 °C
IIIaStanding with permanent use of both upper limbs, sometimes with the torso bending forward or kneeling, walking - maintenance of machines, mechanics, operation of coke-oven battery, working in building construction, etc.30 °C
IIIbStanding with permanent engagement of both upper limbs, torso, walking, construction work in traditional building construction, cleaning of smaller castings with a jackhammer and grinding, etc.26 °C
IVaWork with extensive activity of the torso muscles, upper and lower limbs - work in the building construction industry, working with a shovel in an upright position, etc.24 °C
IVbWork with extensive and intensive activity of the torso muscles, upper and lower limbs - work at workplaces in underground mines - tunnelling, mining, transportation, work in quarries, etc.20 °C
VWork with extensive and very intensive activity of the torso muscles, upper and lower limbs - transport of heavy loads, e.g. bags with cement, excavation work, work with an axe during logging, etc.20 °C

In the days when the outside temperature exceeds 30 °C, it is not necessary to conform with the permitted temperature values prescribed in the table. However, on such days, the employer has to adjust the length of the job based on the conditions on such days - either shorten it or make breaks.

The employer must also take care of the drinking regimen

The legislature also deals with hydration. Section 5 of the same directive stipulates that to protect health from the effects of thermal stress, employees shall be provided with protective drinks. These beverages must be safely available to employees either directly in the workplace or in the immediate vicinity. Drinks shall be provided if:

  • the maximum permissible climatic conditions for the given job are exceeded,
  • employees lose more than 1.25 litres of fluid in an eight-hour shift by sweating and breathing,
  • the outside temperature in the shade between 10 AM and 5 PM is higher than the maximum value for the given workplace defined in the table.

A person loses about 2 litres of fluid by sweating and breathing in a single day. A healthy person should then replenish at least 60-80% of the lost fluids every day. Protective beverages distributed at work should therefore, replenish at least 70% of lost liquid per shift according to the European regulation.

What kind of liquids should these be? Above all, they should not contain more than 6.5% sugar. Ordinary water is ideal. In the event of physically intensive work, the employer is obliged to provide natural mineral water. It is much more suitable for the stressed organism when we want to replenish lost minerals and ensure hydration.

The employer's responsibilities are clear, but what can employees do to protect themselves?

When working in high temperatures, we recommend the following:

Limit your stay and work in direct sunlight.

Do not start physically intensive work unless you are sufficiently hydrated.

Take regular short breaks with fluid replenishment.

Do not drink too cold drinks.

The laws do not require using sunscreen, but…

It is virtually impossible to avoid staying in the sun during outdoor work in summer. Especially when working in agriculture, building construction or on roads. However, dehydration and high temperature are not the only risks you may encounter. Sunlight can also damage your skin. In particular, you must protect yourself against dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

If you stay in the sun for a long time, your skin may get seriously damaged, which may even lead to cancer. Birthmarks are especially sensitive to sunlight, and a high dose of UV radiation can also weaken the immune system.

In this case, the law does not deal with the protection and employees must thus protect themselves. Eventually, you can agree on the conditions with the employer individually or within a framework of a collective agreement.

Protect your skin:

  • Wherever possible, wear a lightweight breathable garment made of natural absorbent materials and covering as much body area as possible during work.
  • Do not forget to wear some head gear and ideally some nape protection.
  • Use a sunscreen with SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Apply it 30 minutes before starting work in the sun and reapply at least once more during the shift.

And that's still not all.

Sun can pose a danger to your eyesight as well. Sunglasses rank among the most underrated personal protection items. This is doubly true when it comes to protection against sun.

The correct sunglasses for summer jobs should have an effective UV filter. By regular sun exposure without sunglasses equipped with a proper UV filter, you risk cataracts. Even 15 minutes in direct sunlight can be dangerous for your eyesight.

How can you find out there's something wrong with you

Your body can tell you that it can no longer handle high temperatures or sun rays. Just listen to it. How does overheating of the organism manifest itself?

1. Heat exhaustion. Your body is trying to tell you it has got enough. You are irritated, tired, your alertness is reduced, you lack motivation, you feel dizzy or you have a headache and you have no appetite.

Thermal exhaustion is usually caused by dehydration. As soon as you experience the symptoms, stop working immediately, find a calm and cool place and replenish your fluids.

2. Heat stroke. The body loses the thermoregulation ability. Summer rash appears on your skin due to excessive sweating and increased moisture. You experience so-called heat cramps - painful muscle contractions. You feel exhausted and overheated.

Sunstroke is a serious threat, caused mainly due to lack of fluids because of excessive sweating. In such a case, seek professional help quickly.

3. Sunburn. Your body has been exposed to the sun and intense UV radiation for too long. Your skin is red and even blisters may appear on it. You feel sick (nausea), your brain has overheated.

When you feel the symptoms of sunburn, immediately seek shade, cool your head and skin, and apply a preparation containing pantothenic acid or panthenol. Sunburn can also occur several hours after you finish working in the sun.

Companies have problems abiding by OSH regulations

Although summer brings a lot of obligations for employers, companies still violate these rules and have to pay unnecessary fines. The Czech State Labour Inspection Office carried out a total of 25,000 inspections in 2017, which resulted in more than 3,500 fines totalling over CZK 200,000,000.

The most common reason for this is poor Personal protective equipment.

If you don't want to belong to these companies this summer, contact us. We will carry out a risk analysis at your workplace and recommend the most appropriate and effective solution from the employees', employers' and legislation point of view.