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Promoting safe working in hot conditions

Published on 1 November 2023

With many IMCA Members conducting operations in parts of the world which have a very a hot (over 40°C) and humid climate – especially during summer months – the HSSE Committee have explored how IMCA is supporting Members to operate as safely as possible.

These conditions can be potentially dangerous for those working outdoors under direct sun, or for those in enclosed or confined spaces where ventilation may be limited.

Heat stress is both an occupational and a safety issue, with high levels leading to potential mental confusion which can develop and predispose workers to perform unsafe acts. The risk of incidents increases with extremes of temperature; hence it is important that we have appropriate heat stress guidelines.

IMCA Contact

Nicholas Hough
Consultant – Safety and Security

Working in hot conditions can also increase the risk of incidents due to issues such as the slipperiness of sweaty palms, the fogging of safety glasses, hot surfaces/steam which can lead to possible burns and scalds, and physical discomfort which can promote irritability, anger, and other extreme emotions.

Sharing the danger signs to look out for, information on who is most at risk, the steps to reduce risk and some potential mitigation measures to take, our recently released Information Note, Working in high temperatures (IMCA 1649), provides a handy summary for Members and vessel crews. It also includes background information on disorders such as sun burns and heat exhaustion, rashes, strokes, and cramps.

The HSSE Committee met recently to discuss how to deal with lost time incidents that do not involve actual injuries – one specific example could be for heat stress.

The conclusion drawn, in a productive hour-long meeting working the detail, was to add an additional term for “Lost Time for Occupational Illness” in our Safety Statistics, with an appropriate and agreed definition. This will begin with 2023 data which will be collected from January 2024.

We have also published, via our Safety Flashes, the United States Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) summary of their findings on heat related illnesses offshore.

As with other aspects of offshore safety, we will continue to monitor and review Members’ needs, gather evidence in the form of data and analysis, and share additional support as required. With more of our Membership base working on an increasingly global basis, supporting them to do so as safely as possible in all conditions remains an IMCA priority.

Nick Hough is Consultant – Safety and Security at IMCA.