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Beat the heat: what your employer should do during a heatwave

The UK Health Security Agency issues heat-health warning until 11pm on Sunday as the thermostat is expected to reach mid-30 degrees Celsius on Friday
Hydration

The UK Health Security Agency issues heat-health warning until 11pm on Sunday as the thermostat is expected to reach mid-30 degrees Celsius on Friday

Temperatures across parts of England are set to soar again in the coming days prompting renewed calls for employers to ensure nurses can keep cool while on shift.

The UK Health Security Agency has issued a heat-health warning until 11pm on Sunday with the thermostat expected to reach mid-30 degrees Celsius on Friday and Saturday in the South East, London, the South West, and the East and West

The UK Health Security Agency issues heat-health warning until 11pm on Sunday as the thermostat is expected to reach mid-30 degrees Celsius on Friday

It is vital that nurses easily access water for hydration throughout their shifts during the heatwave. Picture: Barney Newman

Temperatures across parts of England are set to soar again in the coming days prompting renewed calls for employers to ensure nurses can keep cool while on shift.

The UK Health Security Agency has issued a heat-health warning until 11pm on Sunday with the thermostat expected to reach mid-30 degrees Celsius on Friday and Saturday in the South East, London, the South West, and the East and West Midlands.

Vital that nurses stay hydrated and as cool as possible in the heat

While the temperatures will not be as scorching as the 40 degrees reached last month, it is still vital nurses are able to take regular breaks and easily access water to keep cool.

RCN head of health safety and well-being Leona Cameron said: ‘Nursing staff work through all weather to care for patients, many of whom are vulnerable to the heat.

‘It’s important to stay hydrated and as cool as possible – no matter what care setting nursing staff are working in. Community and district nurses who might be on the move with limited access to water, as well as staff working in PPE that can lead to overheating, should take extra precautions to stay hydrated.’

Heat stress can lead to dehydration and staff feeling ill, which in turn can put patients at risk.

Ms Cameron added that while it may not be hitting 40 degress this week employers must still to all they can to protect nurses’ well-being.

‘If nurses do not have the time and resources to take care of themselves, the care they can give patients will be impacted,’ she said.

‘Well ventilated environments, encouraging people to drink water and time to rest and rehydrate are essential in every care setting.’

Nurses’ tips include running cold water on wrists

One nurse shared her helpful tip for beating the heat on Twitter. She said running cold water on her wrists helps her to keep cool during a shift.

Earlier this month when the mercury hit record-breaking temperatures in the UK, England’s chief nurse Ruth May called on employers to ensure nurses can drink water at nurse stations. The same message is just as important during the hot weather forecast for this week.

Nurses are often told that drinking on the ward is not allowed, with some employers suggesting it’s an infection risk. But in hot weather while working in often clammy uniforms access to water is essential for nurses’ health.

How employers can help take the heat off at work

  • Provide fans
  • Ensure windows can be opened
  • Shade employees from direct sunlight with blinds or by using reflective film on windows to reduce the heating effects of the sun
  • Site workstations away from direct sunlight or other situations or objects that radiate heat (such as equipment)
  • Relax uniform code, while ensuring personal protective equipment is provided and used if required
  • Allow sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down
  • Provide additional facilities, such as cold-water dispensers. Water is preferable to caffeine or carbonated drinks
  • Introduce formal systems of work to limit exposure to heat, such as flexible working patterns, job rotation and workstation rotation
  • Place insulating materials around hot pipes
  • Provide air-cooling or air-conditioning plant

Source: Health and Safety Executive



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