When it’s too hot and for too long there are health risks and every employer should complete a risk assessment to protect their workforce. When working outdoors the effects of the weather in the UK environment can potentially have a serious impact on an employee’s health if the risks have not been considered or properly managed.
Too much sunlight is harmful to your skin. It can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing and in the long term can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 50,000 new cases every year.
Employees could develop dehydration, overheating (which can make symptoms worse for people who already have problems with their heart or breathing) and other conditions could develop such as fainting, heatstroke or heat exhaustion.
Everyone can be affected and those at more risk include:
those whose jobs are outside such as gardners, construction workers, traffic wardens
identify people in your organisation who are more vulnerable than others such as those with a serious or long term illness that could include heart or lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s disease or some mental health conditions
fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans
red or fair hair and light coloured eyes
a large number of moles
older people – especially those over 75
those who may find it hard to keep cool – babies and the very young, the bed bound, those with drug or alcohol addictions or with Alzheimer’s disease
Tips for coping and control measures to put in your risk assessment could include the follwing:
Identify those who may struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated – older people, those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes
change shift patterns to ensure that outdoor workers can keep out of the mid day sun
provide regular breaks and drinking water
ensure workers apply sunscreen regularly
encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss
educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress
complete a thermal comfort risk assessment
ensure you have enough first aid trained employees who fully understand how to recognise the early signs and symptoms for conditions such as fainting, heat exhaustion and heatstroke and how to apply effective first aid.