BOHS Meeting on the Thermal Environment

Working in extreme heat

We had a good turnout at the meeting today in Ellesmere Port  28 people  turned up to listen to four speakers who covered a number of aspects of managing the thermal environment.

Doug Hiebert talked about how BNFL dealt with a problem at their Selafield site.  Maintenance work has sometimes to be carried out in relatively high temperatures and high relative humidity and the risk is increased by the need to wear very comprehensive protective clothing to protect workers from the radiological hazards.  One problem they faced when assessing the risk is that it wasn’t possible to use the usual equipment to carry out environmental measurements due to the potential for it to become contaminated.

After assessing the problem a number of measures were implemented including

  • classifying the area as a “confined space” and introducing restrictions on acess based on factors that could affect an individual’s susceptibility to heat strain
  • trying to schedule maintenance work during plant shutdowns
  • introducing quite stringent and conservative time restrictions for work in the area
  • providing cooling vests

Andrew Moore from the HSE was the second speaker. He provided a regulatory perspective but also gave some good advice on how to manage the health risks associated with work in hot environments. He stressed the importance of obtaining competent advice and effective management, ensuring that all the relevant stakeholders are involved.  He illustrated his presentation with a case study where workers at a leisure pool were working in relatively high temperatures and high humidities. Although treated as a thermal comfort problem, the temperatures involved meant that the workers could be considered to be experiencing thermal stress.

I was the third speaker. Copies of my slides with notes can be viewed on Slideshare and a previous post.

The final speaker was Len Morris of the HSE who announced the formation of a BOHS Topic group on the thermal environment. Anyone interested in getting involved should contact BOHS HQ.

There are a number of good on-line information sources for anyone who’d like to find out more about managing the risks to health presented by the thermal environment, including the following

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