How wonderful to have bright, sunny weather and long days. A real tonic for the soul. But if you work outside, working in the sunshine can have a real impact on your health. Traditionally many builders would take off their tops and wear shorts whilst working in the sun, but those days seem to have gone. The recent case where builders working in the hot sun at a site in Chertsey found a way around the no-shorts rule by turning up in frocks and skirts!
Too much sunlight can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing and most worryingly, can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. A 2105 study by the Institute of Occupational Health and Safety found that in the UK there were as many as five people per day being diagnosed with a form of skin cancer contracted due to sun exposure at work, so it’s a real problem. As an employer, what can you do to protect your staff?
The starting point is, as you may expect, to carry out a risk assessment to understand the environment and what factors around the weather may impact on staff. Then consider actions to take which may include:
Additionally, working in hot environments can cause heat stress. Heat stress occurs when the body’s heat dispersion functions are unable to prevent the body temperature from rising. Typical symptoms can range from an inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, heat rash, giddiness, nausea, headaches and fainting. Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways and some people are more susceptible to it than others. Take time to educate your staff about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress in themselves and work colleagues.
As well as implementing the recommendations above, to help prevent heat stress, consider these additional steps. Allow staff a period to acclimatise to outdoor work, encourage staff to eat at regular intervals during the day to ensure energy and salt levels are maintained and avoid alcohol, caffeine and drugs which can increase urine output, which can increase fluid loss leading to dehydration.
If you need further advice or guidance, Sapience HR would be happy to talk through your sunshine queries. Just give us a call on 01736 339384