The Great British Summer has arrived at last! While the warm weather is brilliant for getting out and about, strong sun and high temperatures can present a new set of challenges for anyone responsible for the safety of staff and customers. When it comes to sun protection advice for outdoor workers, here are some things to think about.
Official Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance states that “UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for people who work outdoors”. While employers aren’t required to provide sunscreen or sunglasses for employees, the HSE does advise that sun protection advice for outdoor workers should be included in health and safety training. Of course, ensuring your team are prepared for the hot weather is a critical part of being prepared when it comes to leading activities outdoors too.
Here are some things to think about:
Stay safe, wear sunscreen
Encourage staff to use a high factor sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher), particularly if they are going to be out for long periods and even if it’s an overcast day. As well as the risk of sunburn – which let’s face it – is pretty unpleasant, overexposure to UV rays is the main cause of skin cancer in the UK. Given that outdoor instructors spend a lot of time in the sun, encouraging your team to take precautions is the responsible thing to do.
Anyone out for long periods should pay particular attention to covering up areas such as the head, back of the neck and ears, which can easily burn. Long sleeved t-shirts and lightweight trousers can also be a good alternative to t-shirt and shorts, and mean less time spent re-applying sunscreen!
Encourage staff to up their intake of fluids and eat regular snacks to combat dehydration and fatigue. Dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion and even heatstroke during periods of hot weather, which can be very serious if not identified and treated. Make staff are trained to spot the symptoms (see the NHS Direct website here), and know what to do if they suspect a team mate or participant may be at risk.
During the busy summer months, tiredness and fatigue can take their toll. To reduce the risk of human error accidents, schedule breaks, encourage your instructors to drink plenty of water and whenever possible, take breaks in the shade.
Check the forecast
Even when the skies are blue, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest weather forecasts. If the forecast says high temperatures and high levels of UV, do you need to resort to a Plan B? Remember too that storms are more frequent after hot weather and can lead to flash flooding, so use the Met Office Weather App to stay up-to-date.
Once you’ve spoken to your team about ways to stay safe in the summer, you’ll want to update your staff training records and risk assessments. If you’re not already doing this in Papertrail, contact us for a free online demonstration and you’ll see just how easy it is to get started.
If you’d like more advice from the HSE on sun protection advice for outdoor workers, you’ll find more information including leaflets which are available to purchase or download from the Health and Safety Executive website.
Do you have any other tips and advice to share on ways to stay safe in the summer? If so, please let us know by leaving a comment below.
Sunscreen image by Dog Walker Brasil via Flickr Creative Commons.