Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

2. PPE and hot weather

Public Health England and HSE are warning about the risks of heat stress during the current hot weather.

Wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) in warm or hot environments increases the risk of heat stress. This occurs when the body is unable to cool itself enough to maintain a healthy temperature. Heat stress can cause heat exhaustion and lead to heat stroke if the person is unable to cool down.

You should take measures to control the temperature of clinical environments and enable staff to make behavioural adaptations to stay cool and well hydrated. You may need more PPE in warm or hot weather as staff may need to change PPE more regularly. Staff may also need breaks more frequently.

Plan now for the summer

Make sure that you have enough PPE supplies to cover an increase in demand during warmer months due to staff changing equipment more frequently.

Consider whether you need more staff per shift to maintain service levels while allowing for an increase in staff breaks.

Staff working in warm or hot conditions

You should follow the advice below:

  • take regular breaks, find somewhere cool if you can
  • make sure you are hydrated - checking your urine is an easy way of keeping an eye on your hydration levels, dark or strong-smelling urine is a sign that you should drink more fluids
  • try to stay cool between shifts as this will give your body a chance to recover
  • be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat stress and dehydration
    dry mouth
    dark or strong-smelling urine
    urinating infrequently or in small amounts
    inability to concentrate
    muscle cramps
  • don’t wait until you start to feel unwell before you take a break
  • use a buddy system with your team to look out for the signs of heat stress in each other
    looking pale or clammy
    fast breathing

Heat stress can present as heat exhaustion and lead to heatstroke if the person is unable to cool down. You can find more about heat exhaustion and actions to take to cool someone down on the NHS website.

Heat exhaustion is not usually serious if you can cool down within 30 minutes. If it turns into heatstroke, it needs to be treated as an emergency.