Excessive heat, the Ministry of Health activates the “heat code”: what it is and how it works

With the increase of temperaturesthe Ministry of Health has issued a circular focused on heat waves and the optimal strategies to deal with them: among these measures includes the establishment of the “heat code”which provides privileged care paths in emergency rooms for vulnerable people, as well as the operation of local clinics every day of the week.

The recommendations of the circular

The circular, signed by the general director of Health Prevention Francesco Vaia, proposes specific strategies to best deal with the effects of heat on health, particularly for vulnerable subjects. It is therefore recommended to implement organizational actions that enhance the ordinary capacity to respond to health care needs. Among the recommended measures, the activation of the “heat code” is strongly recommended, which provides for the establishment of a differentiated preferential care pathway in emergency rooms.

Furthermore, the circular recommends activating the local clinics seven days a week, with extended hours of up to twelve hours a day. It is essential to strengthen the medical emergency service and reactivate the Special Continuity of Care Units (Uscar) to promote home care and prevent inappropriate access to the emergency room. It is also important to strengthen the communication planpromoting the campaign prepared by the Ministry of Health and the regional authorities with the widest possible diffusion.

In addition, the Ministry of Health has reactivated the public utility number 1500 to provide information and guidance to citizens. Every day, heat wave bulletins for 27 Italian cities are made available on its website, accompanied by recommendations on how to deal with the heat emergency.

Heat-related workplace injuries

Heat also poses a significant threat to workers, with a increase of 17.4% of the overall risk of workplace accidents during heat waves. According to data from the AdaptHeat research project, coordinated by the Fundación 1º de Mayo with the collaboration of the Di Vittorio Foundation and financed by the European Union, the burns, wounds, lacerations, amputations and diseases related to extreme temperatures are some of the main causes of this increase. The aim of the project is to study current health and safety policies relating to heat stroke, in order to improve them and better protect workers.

According to the first results recently presented at the initiative “Extreme heat, heat stroke and protection of health and safety at work: perspectives and strategies”, about the 15% of people who normally work under thermal stress conditions suffer from acute kidney injury or kidney disease. Additionally, each year there are approximately 22.85 million workplace injuries, resulting in 18,970 deaths and a loss of 2.09 million years of healthy life due to excessive heat exposure in the workplace.

To avoid accidents and tragedies at work, there are several rules that AdaptHeat recommends; as to interrupt or don’t start the Work when exposure to heat is above the limit to set up financial compensation plans for employers and employees in the event of “disabling” heat. Technical measures include the design of climate-resilient work and rest environments, air conditioning systems, ventilation and adaptation of work spaces.

Organizational measures start from the consideration of weather forecasts and go up to the adaptation of planned work activities to the right of workers to stop work without repercussions and to first aid measures and emergency plans