Society problems

UK heat wave: Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents issues extreme heat safety advice as Sussex prepares for scorching temperatures

Temperatures are expected to soar in Sussex over the next few days and the Met Office has issued an orange weather warning for the area.

According to the Met Office weather warning guide, an amber warning means there is an increased likelihood of severe weather impacts, which could potentially disrupt your plans.

This means there is the possibility of travel delays, road and rail closures, power outages and potential risks to life and property.

Brighton Beach on Saturday July 16. Photo by Eddie Mitchell

In a first for RoSPA, key political spokespersons from all areas of the charity’s work, such as road safety, leisure and home safety, have collaborated to produce essential safety advice in response to the current hot weather and the heat wave expected in the next few days.

Heat waves can often have catastrophic consequences for vulnerable people, as well as those who do not exercise caution when encountering extreme temperatures.

A 2020 government monitoring report found there were 2,500 heatwave-related deaths in the UK, a year that saw temperatures soar to as high as 37 degrees in parts of south-east England.

The Met Office has issued a statement to alert the public to the impending red weather warning that much of the British Isles will see, with peak heat arriving on Sunday (July 17), Monday (18) and Tuesday (19). Accordingly, RoSPA has responded with the following advice and guidance.

Please note: These recommendations stem from RoSPA’s mission to prevent accidents; RoSPA is not a medical specialist and advises you to listen to available medical advice on sun exposure, heat stroke, hydration, fatigue and rest.

Fatigue can cause accidents on the road. With the UK’s rising temperatures, fatigue is a common symptom due to the sun’s ability to drain energy.

In addition, an increase in temperature can lead to sleep disturbances, which can aggravate fatigue, and therefore slow down the speed of reaction on the road.

Drivers and cyclists, especially those using two-wheeled vehicles such as bicycles, scooters and motorcycles, should be aware of the potential for sticky or melted patches of tar on the roads due to the heat of the sun.

For better management of such scenarios, drivers are recommended to be attentive when maneuvering around bends and not to brake too suddenly.

Finally, while it may be important to wear loose clothing to stay cool, proper footwear when operating a vehicle’s pedals is necessary to apply the required amount of pressure. Therefore, if you use two-wheeled transport, protective gear should always be worn.

Although there is no strong evidence that heat waves directly cause falls, anything that causes fatigue or dehydration can impact a person’s mobility or movement.

Think carefully about any jobs you plan to do that involve strain, such as tasks involving ladders or carrying heavy loads in the sun and heat.

It may be a good idea to plan activities for the coolest and most shady parts of the day and not during the hottest stages. Therefore, be sure to drink plenty of water, rest more frequently, and take time to recover well afterwards.

Using wading pools can be a great way for children to cool off in the summer heat, but direct supervision is essential. This vigilance can be extended to garden play in general, especially with children under five, so always be as alert as possible when your little one is near water features like ponds or outdoor cooking appliances such as barbecues.

When you are done with a pond, make sure it is emptied or properly secured. For those who barbecue, never leave it unattended, especially when in use, and cover it when finished.

In addition, the use of disposable barbecues should always be safely disposed of, expressly if it is in a public space, as there is a risk of fire and burn potential.

Perform a visual check of the cables, outlets, and casing of any electrical equipment you plan to use. If damaged, do not use.

With the current heatwave across the UK, it can be tempting to cool off with a swim in some of the UK’s waterways.

However, it is important to know that despite the hot weather, the temperature of the open water can be very low and there is a risk of Cold Water Shock (CWS). CWS affects your ability to breathe, overwhelms your ability to swim, and can even lead to drowning. Even the strongest swimmers can be affected by the CWS shock, so be aware of this every time you enter the water.

Waterways such as lakes may seem like a safe and quiet place to swim, but RoSPA’s advice is to choose to swim in a supervised location such as a beach, pool or supervised lido.

Finally, if you see someone else in trouble, always call 999 for emergency help rather than submerging yourself in the water as well.

If you find yourself struggling in the water, remember to FLOAT: lean back, extend your arms and legs, and wait to control your breathing. Once you are calm and composed, swim to safety or call for help.