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Personal protective equipment and heat: risk of heat stress

7 July 2020

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in warm or hot environments increases the risk of heat stress.

This occurs when the body is unable to cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature. Heat stress can cause heat exhaustion and lead to heat stroke if the person is unable to cool down.

If you’re required to wear PPE your manager will support you to reduce your risk of heat stress. The following advice can help you if you’re required to wear PPE in warm or hot conditions:

  • take regular breaks, find somewhere cool if you can
  • make sure you are hydrated and have easy access to cool drinking water (checking your urine is an easy way of keeping an eye on your hydration levels – dark or strong-smelling urine is a sign that you should drink more fluids)
  • be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stress and dehydration (thirst, dry mouth, dark or strong-smelling urine, urinating infrequently or in small amounts, inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, fainting). Don’t wait until you start to feel unwell before you take a break
  • implement a buddy system within your team to look out for the signs of heat stress in each other (for example, confusion, looking pale or clammy, fast breathing)
  • between shifts, try to stay cool as this will give your body a chance to recover

If you have any concerns, please speak to your line manager.