Hot stuff - The low down on PPE for extreme temperatures

PPE For Extreme Temperatures

For those working in extreme temperatures, at either end of the thermometer, the health risks increase significantly and employers face a completely new set of challenges to ensure their employees can work safely and efficiently.

Without the right clothing, people working in very hot environments, such as furnaces or foundries, as well as those in cold stores, can all fall victim to both heat and cold stress. Even those working outside in the peak of summer or the depths of winter can find themselves beaten by the weather.

Carrying out a risk assessment for workers in very hot or cold climates means looking at a wide range of factors including the effort and activity levels that a person exerts in their job and the amount of time they are exposed to the temperatures for.

Employers should explore ways of minimising temperatures in particularly hot areas by improving ventilation, insulating machinery that might be acting as an additional heat source in areas that are already hot or simply reducing the heat effects of the sun.

It may also be possible to reduce the amount of time that workers have to spend in very hot or cold environments. This could mean introducing systems to ensure workers take regular rest breaks or using a task rotation system so people spend less time working in a particular area.

When considering PPE and specialist clothing for workers in these environments you need to determine the body parts most at risk in various job roles and whether employees are likely to need specific protection from environmental risks such as ice, molten metal, falling objects or weather conditions.

Most clothing that is designed to perform in extreme conditions will include labels that detail its capabilities and with some specialist clothing it may be necessary to follow specific cleaning or maintenance instructions in order to preserve their protective properties.

Finally, it is also worth encouraging those wearing the clothing to check it for damage on a daily basis because worn clothing is unlikely to offer sufficient protection.