Health & Safety Tips for Working in Summer Heat
Now that there is a more informed understanding of the risks associated with exposure to the sun for construction workers and the potential for the development of skin related cancers.
Sunburn and exposure to the UV in sunlight can significantly increase an individual’s risk of skin cancer. Direct exposure is not necessary to increase the risk; even exposure to UV light on bright overcast days can increase the risk. Hazards of working in hot weather include:
- Sunburn: very common; painful with skin blisters and peeling
- increased risk of sun cancer by exposure to UV light whether or not sunburn occurs
- prickly heat: groups of small itchy spots on the skin
- heat exhaustion: fainting, cramp and nausea
- heat stress.
Heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. As well as air temperature, factors such as work rate, humidity and clothing worn while working may lead to heat stress.
Typical symptoms are; an inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, heat rash, severe thirst, fainting, heat exhaustion – fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin and heat stroke – hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness. This is a severe disorder and can result in death if not detected at an early stage.
Provide information to your outdoor workers about risks of exposure to UV radiation and the signs and symptoms of overexposure.
Consider adding Sun Safety Awareness to your workplace policies, including sun-safety information in your induction procedure and through toolbox talks.
When UV exposure at work is unavoidable, protective clothing is key. The more skin you cover, the better. A long-sleeved shirt covers more skin than a t-shirt, especially if it has a high neckline or collar that shields the back of the neck.
For skin that you often can’t cover up, like your hands, neck and face, it’s important to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and reapply frequently throughout the day. If you have a sun sensitivity condition or a history of skin cancer, SPFs up to 50 offer a bit of extra protection. Remember that when you sweat, you have to replenish your sunscreen to ensure the right level of protection read the label on the product.
The HSE six-point Code
- Keep your top on
- Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck
- Stay in the shade whenever possible, during your breaks and especially at lunch time
- Use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
- Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding
For further information please visit HSE.
Work in hot weather and direct sun, also increases the risk of heat-related illness and there are factors that put workers at greater risk.
- High temperature and humidity
- Radiant heat sources
- Contact with hot objects
- Direct sun exposure (with no shade)
- Limited air movement (no breeze, wind or ventilation)
Workers who are exposed to working in a hot environment face additional, but generally avoidable hazards to their safety and health. That’s why it is important to prepare for the heat:
- Educate workers about the dangers of heat, exhaustion, dehydration
- Providing more frequent breaks
- Control the temperature using fans or air conditioning
- Limit exposure to cooler times of the day
- Monitor the health of workers at risk.
- Provide shaded area for break periods
- Provide spf 15+ sunscreen for outdoor workers to use where necessary
- Encourage workers to cover up
- Provide shade (e.g. awnings, canopies) for workers to use, especially during breaks. If this is not feasible, encourage workers to find shade under trees, buildings and other temporary shelter
- Prevent dehydration
The HR24 Health & Safety team are happy to talk you through the health and safety procedures businesses need to have in place and how to start the process, so please contact us if you want to discuss your health and safety needs in more detail.