Working in the Sun

TUC issues safety warning

Posted on: 28/06/2018   By: Lee Rance

With the UK currently in the midst of a heatwave, it is a particularly dangerous time for workers who spend most of their time working outdoors. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned that workers like builders, agricultural workers and gardeners who are outside for lengthy periods in high temperatures are at risk of sunstroke, sunburn and even skin cancer.

The risk from too much sun is one of the areas that the IOSH ‘No Time To Lose’ campaign focuses on. The website contains a wealth of information, resources and advice to help employers protect their employees from the dangers from solar radiation, which in turn can cause skin cancer.

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.

Dehydration is also a big risk to consider. 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, there may be 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.
  • Thirst.
  • Decreased urine output.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Headache.
  • 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.

Employers need to assess the risks from sun exposure for all their employees. Examples of some of the things employers can do are:

  • Reduce exposure to sunlight when it is strongest.
  • Ensure breaks are taken out of the sun.
  • Ensure water is available to workers.
  • Give awareness training and information about the risks of sun exposure and what measures can be taken.
  • Check the UV index daily.
  • 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.

If you would like any help or advice on any of the issues I have discussed, please contact us on 01908 632418 | Email:

Until next time.

Lee Rance