Employers need to consider the risks
Posted on: 19/05/2016 By: Lee Rance
With summer almost upon us once again and the weather getting warmer every day, our thoughts turn to BBQs, sun tans and pub gardens…..of course.
However, working in hot weather, whether it is indoors or out, can become very dangerous unless the proper precautions are taken.
Most employers will have policies in place in order to protect their employees from the effects of working in extreme weather conditions. Hot conditions are more easily controlled for people that work indoors with provision of ventilation, fans, air cooling cabinets, air conditioning, reflective film or blinds on the windows, even allowing clothes appropriate for hot weather. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 says that your employer must maintain a reasonable temperature where you work, but it does not specify a maximum temperature. If people are complaining about the heat then common sense says it’s too hot and something needs to be done about it.
The regulations also say that an adequate supply of wholesome drinking water shall be provided for everyone in the workplace. Dehydration occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If lost fluid remains un-replenished, you may suffer serious consequences. Excessive sweating combined with inadequate intake of water during hot weather or exercise may deplete your body’s water stores. Mild dehydration can cause symptoms such as:
- Dry, sticky mouth.
- Sleepiness or tiredness.
- Decreased urine output.
- Muscle weakness.
- Dizziness or light headedness.
Procedures to prevent dehydration could include:
- Drink cool water (ideally at 15 °C) rather than tea, coffee or carbonated drinks frequently in small volumes to compensate for losses due to sweating.
- You should aim for a total daily water intake of around 2 litres/day (women) and 2.5 litres/day (men). This may be more on very hot days.
- Urine colour is a useful way of checking your hydration status in the workplace i.e. dark yellow, concentrated urine is a sign of dehydration.
Employees who regularly work outside are not only at risk from dehydration but also from sunstroke, sunburn and heat exhaustion especially if heavy physical work is being carried out. Part of the IOSH ‘No Time To Lose’ campaign focusses on the dangers of solar radiation, which in turn can cause skin cancer. The website contains a wealth of information, resources and advice to help employers protect their employees.
According to the IOSH campaign, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world and kills 60 workers a year in Britain. Also, there are at least 1,500 new cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and 240 new cases of malignant melanoma linked to solar radiation exposure at work a year in Britain. 70% of workers in large UK construction companies haven’t had any sort of training on the risks of working in the sun.
Employers need to assess the risks from sun exposure for all their employees. Examples of some of the things employers can do are:
- Give awareness training and information about the risks of sun exposure and what measures can be taken.
- Check the UV index daily.
- Reduce exposure to sunlight when it is strongest.
- Ensure breaks are taken out of the sun.
- Keep covered up with clothing.
- Supply and encourage the use of sunscreen.
- Carry out regular health checks.
Employees also need to report any problems or concerns to their employers.
We all know that too much sun is bad for the skin but I wonder how many of us realise just how serious it can be.
Until next time.