It may not have seemed like it much recently but believe it or not, Summer is here!
The infamous British Weather can actually be quite glorious and we’re all full of hope that it will join us for the remainder of the Summer. However, exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun can cause skin damage starting with 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, especially those spending long periods of time outdoors including farmers/ agricultural workers, construction industries, gardeners and sports people who are most at risk.
It is important that employers protect the health and safety of all employees, even seasonal workers, such as those working on events, agency and temporary workers. You need to ensure ALL staff receive the relevant training for their roles and that relevant risk assessments have been carried out.It is important to ensure the impact they 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.
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.
Here we have listed some tips on how to avoid Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion. Follow this simple guide and you’ll be best prepared to act quickly and confidently:
- Drink plenty of water and natural juices, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they constrict the blood vessels near the skin and reduce the amount of heat the body can release.
- Eat small meals more often and avoid foods that are high in protein because they increase metabolic heat.
- Avoid the heat as much as possible and spend time in a cool space – the best place if you don’t have air conditioning is the lowest floor of a building.
- Remember, electric fans do not generate cool air they merely blow hot air around the room so you’re not solving anything.
- Wear the appropriate attire – loose-fitting, lightly coloured clothes will be best as they reflect heat and sunlight and help maintain normal body temperature.
- Protect your face and head by wearing a cap, hat or head scarf – select cosmetic products, contact lenses and sunglasses that offer UV protection.
- Take it easy – if you engage in strenuous activities then the best times are early morning and late evening.
- Use a sunscreen lotion with a high sun protection factor (SPF) rating – apply at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 hours thereafter, more if you are sweating or swimming.
- Learn the symptoms of heat disorders and know how to give first aid – see below for more on this.
- Keep a constant watch near water and scan the water every 20 seconds – it only takes a few seconds to drown. Make sure protection measures are in place to prevent access to the water when unsupervised.
- Swim in areas, where possible, where an active life-guard is on duty.
The BBQ will also soon be taking centre stage. By taking simple, common-sense precautions, you can help keep yourself and those around you safe:
• Make sure your barbecue is in good working order
• Ensure the barbecue is on a flat site, well away from a shed, trees or shrubs
• Keep children, garden games and pets well away from the cooking area
• Never leave the barbecue unattended
• Keep a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergencies
• Ensure the barbecue is cool before attempting to move it
• Use only enough charcoal to cover the base to a depth of about 50mm (2 inches)
• Only use recognised fire lighters or starter fuel and only on cold coals – use the minimum necessary and never use petrol or lighter fluid
• Never put hot ashes straight into a dustbin or wheelie bin – they could melt the plastic and cause a fire
• Make sure the tap is turned off before changing the gas cylinder
• Change cylinders outdoors if possible or in a well ventilated area
• If you suspect a leak to the cylinder or pipe work, brush soapy water around the joints and watch for bubbles – tighten to fix but do not over tighten
• After cooking, turn off the gas cylinder before turning off at the controls to ensure any residual gas in the pipe work is used up
• It’s estimated that 5 million people got food poisoning last year. • Cook meat, poultry and seafood thoroughly. Use a meat thermometer to be sure your grilled meats are cooked properly on the inside
• Don’t cross-contaminate one food with another
Wash your hands, utensils and cutting boards after they have been in contact with raw meat or poultry and before they touch another food
• Bacteria can grow quickly at room temperature, so refrigerate leftover foods promptly
• Wash produce thoroughly to remove visible dirt, and discard the outermost leaves of a head of lettuce or cabbage
Follow these simple steps and have the best chance of a safe, trouble-free summer – if you would like more information or advice please do give us a call on 0117 958 2070.
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. Give us a call 0117 958 2070 or e-mail us