The summer, so far, has been one of the hottest on record, with extreme temperatures raising the heat in commercial kitchens to dangerous levels.
During this time of year, heat stress is a serious concern amongst those working in bakeries and catering kitchens. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail.
Air temperature, work rate, humidity and work clothing are all factors which can cause heat stress. Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways and some people are more susceptible to it than others.
Typical symptoms are:
- An inability to concentrate
- Muscle cramps
- Heat rash
- Severe thirst – a late symptom of heat stress
- Heat exhaustion – fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin
- Heat stroke – hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness. The most severe disorder as can result in death if not detected early
What to do to reduce the risk
If you are an employer, it is essential to focus on the safety of your employees and reduce the risk of heat stress occurring. All members of staff should be given information on how to avoid heat stress and dehydration, including what signs and symptoms to look out for. Find our recommendations below:
- Provide information to staff regarding the signs and symptoms of heat stress
- Ensure adequate drinking water is available to all staff
- Ensure regular rest breaks are allowed for staff in cooler areas
- Rotate staff on the hot range in particular, as often as possible
- Ensure the air vents feeding the hot range area are fully opened
- Open windows if possible
- Put the extraction on maximum power
- Provide localised fans in hottest areas – take care with trailing cables
- Only light stoves/ovens etc. at the last possible moment
- Turn off equipment if not in use
- Do not allow liquids to boil
- Review clothing been worn to check if appropriate for hot conditions, if not consider a temporary relaxation.
Commenting on this topic, Peter Christopher-Ohrt, Managing Director Technical Services, Food Alert Ltd, said “As a responsible employer, you must provide a working environment which is, as far as is reasonably practical, safe and without risks to health. It is really important that during this exceptional weather period we do everything possible to reduce the temperatures of our kitchens and the affect it has on all staff.