Working Outside this Summer

With the temperatures soaring across the UK this week, it seems a very apt time to be talking about the effects working outside in high temperatures during summer months can have on employees. All too often, employers and staff don’t consider the risks of being exposed to the sun, UV rays or high temperatures, so we’re making it our mission to educate as many people as possible this summer.

It’s true that blue skies and sunshine brighten any day for most of us. Whether against the crispest snow or a field of sunflowers, it seems to make people feel happier and smile more. However, working in the heat of summer is not quite the same as spending time outside with the family, whether camping, enjoying picnics, spending days out, or just relaxing at home in your garden.

Safety is about considering hazards, managing risk and having your procedures in place to control all you can, and the weather should play a large part in considerations all the time, not least at this time of year. We know we can experience four seasons in one day during our British summertime, so workers need to prepare for all eventualities.

Temperature Legalities

One of the most common questions people ask as soon as temperatures rise, and always during the hazards section of our training courses, is about temperature. Both high and low temperatures raise questions, but we’re just going to look at high temperatures in this blog post.

Although you may have heard to the contrary this week, there is no legal minimum or maximum temperature for workers. Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 simply states: “During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.” To find out more about temperature for workers, take a look at the HSE’s temperature page on their website.

Working Outside

Employers who work outside most of the time, such as those in the construction and agricultural industries, are naturally at more risk of their health being impacted by the weather at this time of year. Although it’s everyone’s responsibility to look after each other, it’s ultimately the senior management’s responsibility to ensure they do all they can to protect their staff from harm.

The HSE suggests the following effective ways of managing working in hot environments that leadership teams should consider.

• Rescheduling work to cooler times of the day
• Providing more frequent rest breaks and introducing shading to rest areas
• Providing free access to cool drinking water
• Introduce shading areas where individuals are working
• Encouraging the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss, when it is safe to do so
• Educating workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

Sun Exposure and Cancer

It’s no mystery that exposure to too much sunlight will damage your skin and increase the risk of developing skin cancer, yet more often than not, we still don’t take this risk seriously. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 50,000 new cases every year, most of which are from too much exposure to UV rays in sunlight.

IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) is running a campaign called No Time to Lose, to be part of the fight to reduce cancer patients and to help people better understand the causes of occupational cancers. As part of their campaign, they’ve created a very informative video about working outside and the increased risk of skin cancer, which we highly recommend you all watch.  You can see the video here.

Bridget Gilmour, founder and director of Hundred Acre, tells us: “I’ve had calls from clients this week asking what clothes are appropriate for people to wear to work outside in this weather and can’t more be done about managing work in the heat. I have also had conversations with companies who have had ice cream runs and others who have just packed up and gone outside to enjoy the weather. It is all about being reasonable and managing risks associated with what work is being done. An individual’s health really must come first.”

If you’d like to find out more about working outside in the summer months, or would like to discuss your health and safety needs, please contact us today on +44 (0)1933 201103 or via our contact page. We look forward to hearing from you.

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