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Working Outside: Staying Safe in the Sun

At Octopus Personnel, we take the safety of our temporary candidates very seriously.  Lena Burnett, Octopus Personnel Recruitment Consultant, explains how to stay safe in the sun when working outside.

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 Summer is almost here!  Whilst it lifts everyone’s spirits when the sun is out, extra precautions should be taken for outdoor workers, including many of our seasonal and temporary workers.  The Health & Safety of our candidates is always paramount.  For every role we advertise, we assess the challenges of the role, the Health & Safety requirements of the site, the rhythm of the work and fully brief all our candidates prior to interview.  Whilst we might be envious of those who work outside in this weather, there are some basic safety tips that clients and candidates should follow to keep everyone safe over the summer months.

 Working outdoors can be fantastic, especially in the summer, but it is important to take precautionary measures to protect yourself.  Even working outdoors for a few hours in direct sunlight without high factor sun cream, access to drinking water and a shaded area to cool off can result in serious health problems in the long term. Even in the short-term, things such as sunburn and heat stroke can potentially be very dangerous.  So what precautions can be taken?

 What are the risks of sunlight exposure?

Too much exposure to sunlight is harmful and can damage the skin.  Some of this damage is short-term (temporary), such as sunburn. However, allowing your skin to burn can lead to future problems, such as skin cancer.  There are two main types of damaging ultraviolet (UV) sunlight: UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, damaging the middle layer (the dermis). The dermis contains the elastic tissues that keep the skin stretchy. UVA rays therefore have the effect of ageing the skin and causing wrinkles. UVB rays are absorbed by the top layer of skin (the epidermis). This causes a sun tan, but also sun burn.

Both UVA and UVB rays increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Getting sunburnt is therefore a warning sign that you are putting yourself at risk.  Everyone is at risk of sunburn, heat stress or even skin cancer in the long run.  That being said, those who have fair skin, freckles, red or fair hair and workers with a large number of moles are more at risk of developing skin conditions due to prolonged sun exposure.

What reasonable precautions can be taken?

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1.  Apply high factor sunscreen

It sounds obvious but how many times have you been out in the sun and forgot to put sun cream on? If you have thinning hair, either apply sunscreen to your scalp or wear a wide‐brimmed hat. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm with a SPF of at least 15. To remain protected when outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating.  Make sure you apply a high factor sun cream suited to your skin and encourage those around you to do the same. There are thousands of new cases of skin cancer in the UK every year and many of these are preventable.

2. Make sure there is shade for breaks

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We encourage everyone to take their breaks at work and in the UK you are legally entitled to an uninterrupted 20-minute break if you work for 6 hours or more per day.  When you have staff that work outdoors in the sun make sure there is a shaded area to cool down in. This will help body temperatures decrease and it gives a respite from the glaring heat.  You can find or create shade in many ways. Take a break under trees, umbrellas, canopies or head indoors.  Although shade structures can reduce your overall exposure to UV, it probably won’t completely protect you. UV rays can go through some fabrics and reflect off the ground, so it’s still important to think about clothing and sunscreen.  Many organisations have free cold water as well which will help keep everyone hydrated and it will boost morale too.

3. Educate Workers on Heat Stress

Knowing when and how workers are at risk for heat stress gives employers an advantage in the prevention process. With the right tools, employers can share that knowledge with their employees to create an atmosphere of prevention in the workplace and demonstrate commitment to worker safety and well-being. Heat stress is a general category that includes a variety of high temperature related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which are especially dangerous for those unprepared for work in high-temperature conditions.

HEAT STRESS RISK FACTORS :

• High temperatures

• High humidity

• Low liquid intake

• Heavy physical labour

• Heavy clothing

• Inexperience working in hot conditions

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FORMS OF HEAT STRESS

Heat Exhaustion – a condition that arises when the body’s fluid supply is depleted and not replaced with adequate hydration.

Symptoms:

  • Headache, dizziness or fainting
  • Physical weakness
  • Wet skin
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Thirst, nausea or vomiting

Heat Stroke – a medical emergency when the body is unable to regulate its core temperature.

Symptoms:

  • Confusion, nausea, high blood pressure
  • Seizures, convulsions, loss of consciousness
  • Lack of sweating
  • Flushed, dry skin
  • Difficulty breathing

Preventing heat-related illnesses requires having an educated workforce. Before employees can take active measures in protecting themselves from heat stress, they need the right knowledge and foresight to inform their decisions. By creating an environment that promotes heat stress education and awareness, companies empower their workers to make safe decisions before, during, and after work about their clothing, hydration, and water safety.

The HSE has some great advice for staying safe in the sun and following these basic tips can have a big impact on your overall health.

Lena Octopus Personnel

How can we help you?

At Octopus Personnel, we have years of industry expertise and outstanding relationships with our clients, understanding the ever-changing needs of their businesses.  We are perfectly positioned within the market to guide you to the right employee who will drive your business forward.  Call the office on 01747 825568 to discuss how we can help you.