Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Don’t sweat it – Staying cool in PPE

Clair Weston, at uvex, offers some tips for staying safe and comfortable while using PPE this summer.

Wearing PPE in hot temperatures can pose challenges as well as increase the risk of overheating. However, it is possible to prioritise safety, while considering comfort and overall wellbeing in hot weather. Try and consider the following when working in such conditions.

CREDIT: Rod Long / Unsplash

Eyes on the skies

You may be surprised to learn that the eye is the organ most susceptible to sun damage and is 10 times more sensitive than our skin. Overexposure to some UV rays can lead to cataracts or age-related macular degeneration__, among other eye conditions, so choosing the right safety eyewear is key to protecting against long-term damage. The World Health Organisation recommends eyewear that has a UV protection of up to 400 nanometres (nm). It is worth noting protection up to 380 nm offers 100% protection against UVB rays, but only provides partial protection against equally dangerous UVA radiation.

It’s not just UV radiation that jeopardises health. Brightness and glare can make it particularly difficult to see clearly, meaning an increased risk of accidents or injuries.

However, this doesn’t just occur when working outside in bright sunshine. High levels of harsh, bright white light from modern lighting technology, such as LEDs or working with screens that emit artificial blue light, can cause problems with eye strain, headaches or mental and physical fatigue. Prolonged exposure to these light sources, especially at night time, can lower melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone our bodies use to regulate sleep, and over exposure can disrupt our circadian rhythm (our natural waking and sleeping cycle). Properly tinted lenses can have a dramatic effect on our long-term health as well as the quality of your vision, enhancing comfort, clarity and productivity when working indoors or outdoors.

Get a grip on hands

Our hands have 375 sweat glands per square centimeter around the palms and the insides of the fingers, and approximately another 200 on the back of the hand; nowhere else on the human body has more glands. These are particularly active in the summer which is why it is important to choose a safety glove that allows hands to breathe, while providing appropriate protection levels.

Maintaining good hand hygiene is important, and workers should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water before wearing gloves. This can help remove excess oils and sweat from the skin, reducing the likelihood of excessive sweating.

This material [bamboo] is naturally hypoallergenic making it ideal for those with sensitive skin.

Regarding glove choice, look for those that offer reliable grip coatings; some of which have an open pore structure to help enhance breathability, as well as a glove liner with moisture-wicking or absorbing properties. Some gloves incorporate sustainable bamboo, a fibre known for its soft, luxurious feel attributed to the smooth, round structure of its fibres. It’s also 20% more breathable and has high capacity and quick moisture absorption properties, helping to keep skin cool, dry and comfortable when compared to synthetic or even cotton equivalents. This material is naturally hypoallergenic making it ideal for those with sensitive skin. It also boasts antibacterial properties thus making it ideal for gloves and physically demanding tasks.

CREDIT: Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Cool clothing

In warmer weather, try and opt for clothing made from lightweight and breathable fabrics, again such as bamboo, that allow air circulation and promote ventilation, and again, look for moisture-wicking properties to help keep sweat away from your body. Light colours reflect sunlight and heat, helping to maintain cool temperatures rather than darker colours which absorb the heat. Go one step further and look for products which include certified UV protection to guard against damaging rays.

Treat hot feet

Not only are hot feet uncomfortable and distracting, but they are also more susceptible to blisters, fungal infections and other unpleasant conditions. Our feet produce enough sweat during intense physical activity to fill an entire glass of water over the course of a working day. Like hands, practising good hygiene with daily washing and thorough drying before putting on fresh socks and footwear will help eliminate moisture build-up.

As a minimum, try to remember to remove the insole in your safety footwear when you take them off at the end of the day, and leave in a well-ventilated area where possible. This will allow both the insole and footwear to dry thoroughly. Also, look for footwear that allows air circulation and ventilation to help release heat and moisture. The upper material and lining also play an important part in ensuring feet remain comfortable throughout the day.

Lastly, remember the importance of fit. Tight or ill-fitting footwear will only make your feet feel hotter.

General sun safety

Even with all your kit sorted there are still some common-sense tips for working in hot weather, and protect exposed skin with high-factor sunscreen and reapply regularly.

Frequent rest breaks in the shade and regular rehydration are key to allowing your body to recover from heat exposure and prevent overheating. Be aware of the signs of heat stress and heat exhaustion, which include an inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, fainting, nausea and severe thirst. Heat exhaustion can lead to the even more serious condition of heat stroke which requires emergency medical attention.

Related Topics

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments