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Tip of the Month: Heat Exhaustion and Heat (Sun) Stroke

The recent Bank Holiday weekend reminded us that our infamous British Weather can be glorious, giving us hope there is more to come for the remainder of Summer.


Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering, skin ageing and in the long term can lead to skin cancer. It’s never too early (or too late!) to reduce your risk of skin cancer and also sun/heat stroke so make sure you slap on the sun cream when exposed to these powerful UV rays.

Those spending long periods of time outdoors including farmers/ agricultural workers, construction industries, gardeners and sports people are most at risk. It is important to ensure the impact it may have on an employee’s health is taken into account if the risks have not been considered or properly managed.  There is a high risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke during hot weather aswell as skin damage including skin cancer.

Research tells us that skin cancer is growing at a faster rate in men than women. In males in the UK, melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer.

It’s clear, a suntan is not a sign of health, it is a sign of skin damage that does not offer protection from harmful UV rays. An “ABCDE moles checklist” has been developed to help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a melanoma. The checklist and other useful information can be found on the NHS Choices website You can also visit the NHS site for official advice on staying safe in the sun 

If you or your employees are regularly working outdoors then this should be considered in your risk assessments and controls put in place to minimise exposure to the sun and heat.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be provided by an employer ‘free of charge’ and supplied where there are risks which cannot be controlled by other means. Employees exposed to extreme temperature should be provided with appropriate workwear.

You should encourage employees to keep covered up during the summer months – especially around mid-day when the sun is at its strongest i.e. with long-sleeved shirts and hats that can protect the neck and ears. You should also encourage the use a sunscreen of at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 on any part of the body that is not covered up and take their breaks in the shade, if possible, rather than staying out in the sun. Where possible, provide water to encourage employees to avoid dehydration and always keep employees informed about the dangers of exposure to the sun

Although not strictly PPE, protective clothing can help to keep workers fit and healthy, as the construction industry demonstrates with waterproof clothing and fleeces which are made of high visibility fabrics.

Heat Stroke is caused when the body overheats and is unable to cool itself down by sweating due to dehydration and is most common in the summer months. This most serious form of heat injury can occur if your body temperature rises to 40 °C or higher. Heat stroke is potentially life-threatening and needs to be treated by medical professionals.

Heat exhaustion is as a result of your body overheating, usually caused by exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity and in turn leads to dehydration caused by excess sweating. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition. Fortunately, heat exhaustion is preventable and if recognised early enough, is not serious and usually gets better when you cool down.

To help prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke:

  • drink plenty of cold drinks, especially when exercising
  • take cool baths or showers
  • wear light-coloured, loose clothing
  • sprinkle water over skin or clothes
  • avoid the sun between 11am and 3pm
  • avoid excess alcohol
  • avoid extreme exercise

This will also prevent dehydration and help your body keep itself cool.

As qualified and experienced health and safety professionals, we can make managing health and safety in your business ‘Hassle Free’, including advice on how to carry out risk assessments taking into account outdoor working.

Whatever your health and safety needs, give us a call today 0117 958 2070 or e-mail us and make your health and safety, ‘Hassle Free’