2nd June Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Last week we were lucky enough to have some of the nicest weather we’ve had so far, this year, with temperatures reaching 25C last Friday. While most of us who were keen to get outside, and envied workers who were free from the confines of an office, it’s worth remembering that the hot weather, as nice as it is, poses certain risks to outdoor workers, and like any other aspect of health and safety, must be managed correctly.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises employers to:

  • include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training, informing workers that a tan is not healthy
  • encourage workers to keep covered up during the summer months — especially around midday
  • encourage workers to use sunscreen
  • encourage workers to take their breaks in the shade, if possible
  • consider scheduling work to minimise exposure
  • keep workers informed about the dangers of sun exposure
  • encourage workers to check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change and to seek prompt medical advice promptly if concerned.

For employees, the HSE highlights its sun protection six-point code as follows, advising workers to:

  • keep their tops on since clothing forms a barrier to the sun’s harmful rays
  • wear hats with brims or flaps to cover the back of necks and ears
  • stay in the shade, whenever possible, but especially at lunchtime
  • use a high factor sunscreen of at least factor SPF 15 on exposed skin
  • drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration
  • check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles which may have changed

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. Construction workers are six times as likely to develop skin cancer, so something as simple as applying sunscreen, could make all the difference.

The suggestions from the HSE are definitely a good place to start, but it’s important to just pay attention to how you’re feeling in the heat, if you don’t feel right, hydrate and have a rest in the shade. You know your body best so don’t push yourself too far, the project might take a little longer to get finished, but the important thing is that the project is finished by a fit and healthy workforce.  With effective health and safety planning, outdoor workers will enjoy a pleasant, healthy and safe summer – unless we get a typical British summer, then we’ll have nothing to worry about.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.