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Safety Nudges

Working in Hot Weather

Published by Safety Net Team

June 20, 2023

Working outside can have a serious impact on an employee’s health if the risks have not been properly managed.

The Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 requires employers to provide their employees with, among other things, a safe and healthy working environment. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to assess the risks to the health and safety of their employees arising out of their work activity.

General hazards

At high temperatures (25°C and above) employees may become drowsy and less aware of dangers. There is also an increased risk of accidents due to slips, trips, falls, poor manual handling, injury from hand tools, etc. Thermal discomfort gives rise to reduced efficiency that can lead to poor decision-making with resultant errors. In addition, exposure to insects and animal faeces, etc, may prove more harmful if the skin is uncovered or the pores are open due to sweating.

Skin cancer and other effects of sunlight

Too much sunlight is harmful to the skin, with a tan indicating that it has become damaged. Particularly vulnerable are those people with:

  • fair or freckled skin that does not tan, or goes red or burns before it tans
  • red or fair hair and light coloured eyes
  • a large number of moles.

Although workers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean origin are at less risk, they should still take care in the sun to avoid eye damage, skin ageing and dehydration.

In the short term, sunburn can blister the skin and make it peel. Over the longer term, it can speed up the ageing of the skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled, with the most serious effect being an increased risk of developing skin cancer.

According to the HSE publication Sun Protection: Advice for Employers of Outdoor Workers, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Therefore, employers should:

  • include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training
  • encourage workers to keep covered up during the summer months (using a long-sleeved shirt and a hat with a brim or flap that protects the ears and neck), especially at lunchtime when the sun is at its hottest
  • encourage workers to use sunscreen of at least Sun Protection Factor 30 on any part of the body they cannot cover up and to apply it as directed on the product
  • encourage workers to take their breaks in the shade, rather than in the sun
  • schedule work to minimise exposure
  • site water points and rest areas in the shade
  • encourage workers to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • keep workers informed about the dangers of sun exposure
  • encourage workers to check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change size, shape or colour and to seek medical advice promptly if they find anything that causes them concern.

For more information go to get free advice and request a call back.

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