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Don’t underestimate the dangers of heat on your workforce

lorry heat

Posted on 22nd Jul, 2019 by Charlotte Coop

Rising temperatures can be dangerous with distracted driving and drowsiness being amongst the key hazards.

While temperatures soar, it’s still important not to underestimate the effects of heat on your workforce.

Here are some of the biggest dangers that heat can pose to your workforce – as well as some of our suggestions for how vehicle safety technology can help.

Dehydration and Fatigue

As the summer months kick in and temperatures and humidity levels rise
many workers can find that they get easily fatigued, especially if they’re not properly hydrated. Research also showed that a reduction of just 2% of hydration can mean a 20% loss of concentration.

The types of drivers most at risk are:

HGV drivers or van drivers who may not want to stop because they’re on a schedule
Holiday makers on long journeys (including their passengers, if the sun shines directly on them)
Taxi and bus drivers who may not be able to leave their vehicles frequently
Driving instructors who are travelling to and from appointments and are with clients during much of the day
Motorcycle and scooter riders in full protective gear
Forklift drivers in busy warehouses
Farmers and agricultural workers working in fields on open tractors, on quad bikes, motorbikes, or in tractors without air conditioning

Symptoms of dehydration

  • Reduction of concentration
  • Headache
  • Slower reaction times
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness/fainting

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Reduced concentration levels

As above, this is not ideal for productivity at the best of times, but if lack of concentration affects employees responsible for the largest, heaviest vehicles on UK roads, the consequences can be substantial and dangerous.

Simple mistakes can have huge repercussions; for example, just forgetting to check the mirrors before making a left turn can increase the risk of a collision with other vulnerable road users like cyclists.

Forgetting to put on the handbrake, meanwhile (another common mistake for many drivers), can result in devastating vehicle rollaways.

Being distracted and loss of concentration when reversing can result in collisions damaging vehicles, property or causing injury to people.

The range of vehicle safety technology we stock here at Vision Techniques can help mitigate these risks. Our cyclist detection systems can provide audible and visual warnings that preclude any neglect to check the mirrors, while our Brakesafe system goes one step further, by automatically applying the handbrake should the driver forget. Our multi award-winning Banksman uses FMCW technology to detect obstacles, warn the driver and stop the vehicle, eradicating the risk of collisions.

Drowsiness

In tests conducted by Loughborough University back in 2015 it was found that people who were dehydrated and driving committed the same number of errors as those that had drank a couple of alcoholic drinks

Symptoms of dehydration manifest in different ways as dehydration progresses, the ability to control a vehicle decreases. If you don’t treat your dehydration at this more advanced stage, the next stage could see low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat and breathing, fever symptoms, irritability and confusion, Medically known as heat syncope, the cause can be traced to blood vessels under the skin, which dilate to increase heat circulation in an attempt to radiate excess body heat. In the worst cases, this can reduce the blood supply to the brain, causing delirium and eventually loss of consciousness.

In instances where the driver becomes incapacitated we have developed our StopSafe system, an invaluable way for crew-members to bring the vehicle to a safe, controlled halt in the event that the driver does lose consciousness or if they are suddenly taken ill. This is the only system on the market to be approved by the VCA.

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Prevention is better than cure

Jane Holdsworth, Director of the European Hydration Institute (EHI), said “Anecdotal evidence suggests that many drivers avoid drinking on long journeys to minimise bathroom stops, yet we know that even mild hydration can cause symptoms such as headache, tiredness and lethargy. Driver error is by far the largest cause of road traffic accidents.”

It’s important to promote safer working practices with your employees. Here are a few simple ways to stay sharp:

  • Grab a glass of water before each journey
  • Keep a bottle of water with you during the day with variation with some squash
  • Avoid stimulants
  • Take regular breaks
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthily – Load up with fruit with a high water content such as water melon, strawberries and pears
  • On track use an isotonic drink

If an employee suffers from an episode, in most cases oral fluids, relief from the heat and rest will be sufficient. However, it’s always best to seek professional medical advice before they return to work, especially if they’re planning on driving. In these cases, it’s important to consider again whether your vehicles are outfitted with Stopsafe technology, and how they can prevent the consequences.

Fleet managers can also employ telematics systems to great effect, to ensure that journeys are planned efficiently, drivers are keeping to their rest schedules, and taking appropriate breaks.

Here at Vision Techniques, we have a range of vehicle safety technology to enhance the safety of your fleet all year round, and serve a number of industries. If you’ve got any questions about any of our products, members of our friendly sales team are always here to lend a hand – why not give us a call on 01254 679 717, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help!