The HSE has issued an e-Bulletin as temperatures are set to soar across Britain this week.
At THSP Risk Management we work closely with our customers in the construction industry to ensure that their workers will be as safe as possible.
Where possible work should be planned to reduce exposure to UV rays and bright sunlight, particularly if you are fair-skinned, have red hair and freckles or have a lot of moles. Even mild reddening of the skin is a sign of damage and long term, this damage can lead to skin cancer.
Employers must consider exposure to UV rays as a work hazard and include them in their risk assessments, with sensible control measures implemented.
As always, the hierarchy of control is to:
Eliminate the risk by avoiding working outdoors in direct sunlight and reduce the risk by limiting duration or programming works early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays are not so strong.
Isolating the hazard is not so easy, but consider those workers more prone to sunburn, working under awnings or in shade.
Controls include encouraging workers to remain covered up, and providing sunblock to a minimum factor of SPF 15, to be regularly reapplied. It is very difficult for the construction industry to relax dress codes to cope with the heat. PPE is there to protect individuals. It is not something that can be removed without the potential for serious consequences.
Another danger of working outside in the heat is that it can lead to heatstroke and other heat-related problems. Heatstroke is a serious condition where the body is no longer able to control its temperature. This causes the body temperature to rise to dangerous levels within 10 to 15 minutes. Should emergency treatment not be provided, heatstroke can lead to permanent disability or death.
Symptoms of heatstroke are:
- Dry, hot, reddish skin and lack of sweating
- High body temperature
- Strong, rapid pulse
- Slurred speech
Whilst we cannot change the working hours or regulations on workwear, THSP encourage all workers to be on the lookout for their workmates to ensure that they are not suffering in the heat.
The best ways to keep your team cool and hydrated in the hot weather is:
- Ensure they drink plenty of fluids – two to four cups of water every hour, not just when they are thirsty.
- Ensure they have drinks bottles.
- Discourage the consumption of alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks.
- Issue PPE that is lightweight, light coloured and loose-fitting.
- Encourage your workers to slow down and know their limits to work safely.
- Assign extra workers for physically demanding outdoor jobs.
- Get workers to wear a sun hat or accessorise their hard hats with proprietary crown and neck shades to keep the sun off their faces and necks.
- Ensure rest periods and water breaks are in a shaded or air-conditioned area.
- Suggest use of damp rags to wipe faces or place around necks.
- Make sure people use sunscreen.
- Avoid or block out direct sun if possible.
- Remember becoming thirsty is one of the last signs of becoming dehydrated, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
If you would like to review your workplace safety, call us for a site inspection on 03456 122 144. We have plenty of sound advice.