Elta Fans: Health Risks of Steam in the Workplace

This blog was written for a PMA Marketing client and published on 17 August 2015

Hot water and steam are used for cleaning and sanitisation in many workplaces, especially in the food processing industry. Are you aware of the health risks of working with steam and what you can do to reduce them in your work environment?

Read on to find out more.

The Health Risks of Steam in the Workplace

Hot water and steam are commonly used to clean and sanitise equipment, for plant washing at the ends of shifts, by boilermakers, and by people in the hospitality and catering industries to name a few examples. There are significant risks associated with the use of steam in the workplace and it is crucial that employers take the necessary precautions to protect their employees.

Burns and Scalding

Water temperatures need to be 82 degrees Celsius for sanitisation purposes, therefore the risk of burns or scalding is substantial. Prolonged increase in body temperature can also be dangerous, potentially causing dehydration, dizziness and nausea.

Vasodilatation

Vasodilatation is the widening of blood vessels that occurs when the muscles in the blood vessel walls relax. Heat can cause blood vessels to open up which can be a problem for people with hard-to-control hypertension (high blood pressure). Alternating between cold and hot temperature extremes can cause an increase in blood pressure, therefore people with high blood pressure should be cautious when working with steam.

Mucus Thinning

Steam heat can cause thinning of mucus that can be helpful to some people in clearing sinus passageways. However, it can also cause problems for people with asthma or lung disease by triggering increased wheezing and chest tightness.

How to Reduce the Health Risks of Steam

So how do you protect yourself and employees from the health risks of steam?
There are some simple precautionary steps to take, such as:

  • If your staff work in an environment that uses steam or hot water regularly, it’s important they stay hydrated.
  • If your staff feel dizzy or nauseous, they should remove them self from the workspace immediately.

However, workplaces need strategies and proper procedures in place to reduce the health risks of steam and protect their employees. A suggested process is:

  • Identify situations where employees are using steam or hot water
  • Assess the risks associated with each situation
  • Wherever possible, use machinery to perform tasks that employees don’t need to do
  • Where employees are needed to perform work tasks, ensure that they are informed of safety procedures and given protective clothing and equipment
  • Use administrative measures such as placing warning signs and stickers where steam is used. Visual reminders of safety procedures are essential
  • Install a ventilation system to regulate room temperatures, a sensor to monitor levels of steam and an extraction fan

Contact ELTA Fans for a proper assessment

Workplaces should be properly ventilated for pleasant and safe working conditions. Talk to an ELTA Fans representative today about your workplace and how to improve ventilation and air quality.

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