On hot summer days, it may quickly be the case that the air temperatures in working spaces such as offices, shops, or also in workshops increase to "detrimental" values and the employees suffer from the heat - the consequences include a reduced performance and motivation, fatigue and lack of concentration, through to an increased emission of sweat and cardiovascular strains. Studies demonstrate a significantly increased risk of accidents.
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The Workplaces Ordinance (ArbStättV) from August 2004 requires room temperatures beneficial to the health for working spaces and the protection against excessive solar irradiation; however, a maximum admissible temperature is not specified. The workplace rule ASR A3.5 Raumtemperatur (room temperature) from June 2010 specifying this general requirement defines in item 4.2 section 3 that the air temperature in working spaces and staff rooms should not exceed +26°C. The "summer case" described above is additionally established in ARS A3.5 using a separate item. 4.4. For ambient air temperatures of more than +26°C, this item describes a step model including boundary conditions to be observed and the necessary protective measures for the employees. In this, the employees may continue to work at air temperatures in working spaces of up to +30°C to +35°C and more, provided that the employer takes suitable protective measures. Despite these new provisions, employees are not directly legally entitled to air-conditioned rooms or time off due to excessive heat, for example. Pursuant to § 4 Occupational Health and Safety Act (ArbSchG), the employer is obliged to organise the work in such a way that a danger to life and health preferably is avoided and remaining hazards are minimised, however.
Since room temperatures of more than +26°C, as possible in working spaces without air-conditioning in summer, may, under certain circumstances (increased work hardness and clothing situation), result in a danger to the health (e.g. circulation strain), protective measures are necessary. Boundary conditions and examples are mentioned in ASR A3.5. The protective measures must be defined individually with the help of a risk assessment pursuant to § 3 ArbStättV.
Employers and employees must master the situation by mutual consent with the help of suitable measures. Different technical, organisational, and personal measures, but also the personal behaviour of each individual person may contribute to the aforementioned.
Work, working time, and break regimes should be adapted to the situation within the framework of what's technologically or operationally possible:
Health disorders such as heat-related fatigue or heat collapse may occur in an overheated office as well. The signs of these disorders should be identified prematurely and immediate measures should be initiated.
Basic rules of conduct:
Often, the hazards caused by intensive solar radiation are underestimated. In addition to light and heat, the invisible UV radiation also is a part of the solar radiation. It is responsible for skin tanning and for vitamin D production. But it is also a possible cause for skin and eye diseases. Even though a sun burn frequently heals well, every sun burn increases the risk of contracting skin cancer. A huge health risk that may have fatal consequences. As a consequence, the following is applicable: solar protection is occupational health and safety.
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With the Occupational Health and Safety Act (§ 4, § 5, § 11, § 12), the Workplaces Ordinance (§ 3a, annex 5.1), and the Accident Prevention Regulation DGUV Regulation 1 (hitherto: BGV A1, § 23), there already are obligations for the employers regarding the protection of employees against solar UV radiation.
Within the framework of the risk assessment, the UV index may be an important variable and contribute to easily determining the hazard. The UV index (UVI) describes the erythemal UV radiation of the sun. In this, the following is applicable: the higher the UVI the higher the UV strain and therewith the risk of getting a sun burn. At a UV index of 3 and above, you should protect your health by the following:
Furthermore, a sun protection product with a high sun protection factor (at least SPF 30) may reduce skin damage significantly. In this, it is important that the sun blocker can be applied easily and is applied with a sufficient thickness. Only then efficient protection may be achieved. Frequently, the applied quantity is too low, which may result in the protective effect being decreased to one third.
The UV-A radiation affecting the eye is absorbed by the eye lens. After multiple years of exposure, a cataract may be formed. This is an opacification of the eye lens. As opposed to most of the other human tissues, the lens is not capable of regenerating and must be replaced by an artificial lens if the opacification is too strong. In Germany, about 600,000 cataract surgeries are performed that are partially attributable to too high a UV-A life dose.
Therefore, sunglasses should be worn if the solar radiation is strong. When purchasing sunglasses, observe the CE mark, filter category 2 or 3. If the eyeglass lenses cover the eye sufficiently, virtually 100 % protection against UV radiation is provided for. Helpful tips regarding this topic can be found in the pamphlet "Sonnenbrillen - Augen auf beim Brillenkauf!" (sunglasses - don't buy glasses on the fly).
When working outdoors, additional influencing factors such as UV radiation, increased heat load due to direct solar irradiation, increased concentrations of air pollutants (summer smog, ozone, etc.) must be observed within the framework of the risk assessment - in addition to the information listed in chapter 1 for workplaces in buildings. The protection against these detrimental effects is of the utmost priority in order to avoid any risk to the health of the employees. Information on whether a heat wave must be expected can be obtained from the German Meteorological Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst - DWD) by means of a heat warning program.
Specifically at construction sites, facilities for shading, ventilation, or water-spraying must be provided (e.g. awnings, sunshades, etc.).
Adapt the working time and work rhythm, as well as the work intensity to the weather, e.g. check whether the work may be postponed, reschedule the working time to the cool morning hours, adapt break times to the stress.
If the environmental authorities report that the ozone values are being exceeded and that there is summer smog, respectively, their recommendations must be abided by, specifically heavy work must be limited or avoided completely. Current measured data and rules of conduct can be obtained from the Federal Environment Agency.
The permanent availability of suitable beverages must be ensured. For example, the water bottle in the construction trailer is not a possibility for regularly drinking without leaving the workstation. Beverages should be provided in the direct working environment.
Specifically when working outdoors, heat diseases are an increased hazard to the health; along with the sunstroke, a heat stroke is also possible in extreme cases. More detailed information and rules of conduct can be found in the report "Informationen zu gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen sommerlicher Hitze und Hitzewellen und Tipps zum vorbeugenden Gesundheitsschutz" (information on health-related effects of summer heat and heatwaves and tips for preventative health protection) of the Federal Environment Agency.