To be writing a blog about heat stress during January might seem strange to some, but some readers will obviously now be facing the hottest period of the year. Over recent weeks I have been exchanging information with Dr Susanta Podder, plant EHS head for PepsiCo in Kolkata, about his study describing the relationship between heat stress and strain in the food industry in India.
Reaching a shared understanding that modern industry faces a multivariate array of factors that influence the health and wellbeing of workers – physical, physiological, postural, environmental, and the list goes on – is of utmost importance, and in some industries heat stress is an issue all year, with seasonal peaks. Irrespective of the situation, the full range of factors influencing the health of workers must be understood and control measures put in place that reduce the likelihood of heat stress and concomitant strain on the physiology of the worker.
A heat stress risk assessment should consider the work rate, working environment, clothing and respiratory protective equipment if worn.
In Dr Podder’s study, the operatives worked for a period of eight hours during which approximately 90 loads of 50kg were handled within a warehouse environment.
Whilst the case study shared here might differ significantly from your own place of work, universal control measures apply: improved ventilation, hydration including electrolyte replacement, and a periodic education programme to ensure workers understand control measures and managers support their implementation.
Dr Susanta Podder will be contributing to the May 2019 edition of the RoSPA members’ OS&H Journal, and is willing to respond to any questions you may have about his study, ‘Effect of heat stress on the health strain of industrial workmen – A Case Study in Food Industry (FMGC) in India.