Information for our clubs, coaches, competition organisers, members and fencing community on how to cope with hot weather/rising temperatures.
Last Updated: 25/07/2023
As an indoor sport, fencing is not often affected by adverse weather, but the nature of the sport and the layers of kit required, means that extra precautions need to be taken during hot weather.
It is the responsibility of clubs, camp and competition organisers to ensure that the risk posed by hot weather is appropriately reflected in the risk assessment for the activity and mitigation actions are identified and taken in hot weather.
a. Clothing and equipment – Clothing affects a person’s ability to cool down, particularly if saturated with sweat, so may put extra strain on the body. Consider adjusting sessions to allow participants to remove kit to cool down mid session and encourage changing into dry clothing where possible.
b. Expected work rate – The rate the human body generates heat is determined by the work rate. In the UK, the primary cause of heat casualties from exertion has been through endurance activities. Consider avoiding traditional endurance activities (eg fitness tests) and limiting time spent sparring/training without a break.
c. Environment – One of the main ways that the body loses heat is through sweat evaporating. The environmental factors that affect the efficiency of sweating are temperature, humidity and wind speed. Where an indoor venue does not have functioning air conditioning, consider opening doors and windows to get a draft. Use wet bulb monitors ( venue operators may wish to invest in this one, a cheaper alternative here) to check on temperature and humidity in the venue as the higher the humidity the harder to lose heat through sweat evaporation.
d. Individual risk factors – People’s responses to heat vary greatly, and it is good practice to ask participants to share with you any physical or medical condition (for example, a known heart condition, breathing difficulties, sickle cell trait and so on) that could affect their ability to undertake the activity safely.
e. Medical plan – As part of the overall risk assessment, there should already be in place a medical plan which includes an appropriate response to any casualties or medical incidents
f. Fluid requirements – Adequate hydration is essential to maximise heat loss through sweating. Participants should be encouraged/reminded to drink an adequate amount of water before, during and after the activity. Organisers should ensure that there is drinking water available. The water should be cool (if possible) and from a guaranteed safe source. Care should be taken to avoid overhydration and to maintain salt levels (see more info below).
g. Acclimatisation – The risk of heat illness in hot climates (dry or humid) can be reduced, but not eliminated, by acclimatisation. All participants performing an activity in the UK or Northern Europe in high temperatures must be considered as not acclimatised because the climate is temperate with only occasional heatwaves.
If the temperature of the venue is expected to rise above 27 degrees, the risk assessment of the activity must be updated in advance and mitigation strategies identified.
If the ambient temperature unexpectedly rises above 27 degrees a dynamic risk assessment must be done. Competition organisers can increase time between DE fights and offer cooling strategies in the breaks even if this means they do not operate to a published schedule. Health of the participants is paramount. Above 32 degrees, organisers must consider stopping the competition/training (either temporarily to allow temperatures to fall, or permanently) and any decision to continue must be logged in writing, noting the factors that led to the decision and the mitigation strategies in place.
When participating in fencing in hot weather members are encouraged to take individual action to help ensure that they maintain hydrated and stay cool. Where they are participating in organised activity (club, camp, competition) they should follow the advice of the organisers to mitigate the risks of heat exhaustion.
It is especially important that younger fencers are guided to stay hydrated, as they may not be able to monitor the signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration as easily. Parents/guardians are responsible for supporting this – eg by ensuring that children bring with them water/electrolytes/high water content food.
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