For many managing health and safety in the workforce means preventing accidents in the workplace or taking measures to ensure employees are either not exposed to danger or at least that their exposure is limited and managed. But what if that workplace is outdoors, where many elements fall outside of our control?
The piece of legislation in force to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees is The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, not the Health and Safety in the Workplace Act, meaning it covers any place of work, be that in an office, in a factory, up in the sky or out of doors. It means that employers of workers who spend all or some of their time outside are just as responsible for their safety at those times as they would be if they were deskbound or on a production line.
Hazards facing outdoor workers
Those working outdoors face an assortment of hazards depending on their type of work, geographic location, the season and the amount of time they are outside. In the summer, the greatest risks are from extreme heat and exposure to the sun.
According to the British Skin Foundation, skin cancer is now the most common form of cancer in the UK, with around 100,000 new cases reported each year. High levels of exposure to the sun and its damaging UV rays are among the most frequently cited causes of these new cases.
Exposure to the sun is highest during the summer months and between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and working outdoors during these times increases the chances of getting sunburned. While it is not economically viable to limit working hours to those falling outside of these hours, employers must do all they can to limit instead the damaging effects of the sun by encouraging workers to stay safe.
Protect workers from the sun
To the health, safety and welfare of employees who work outdoors and are exposed to the dangers of the sun, employers should inform, educate and instruct their staff on the safety measures of covering up to protect from sunburn, using sun cream and keeping hydrated.
Encourage the use of high factor sun cream, with a minimum of 15 SPF, and one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (UVA being the most damaging and increasing the risk of developing skin cancer). Where possible and practicable, provide sun cream for your workforce to use.
Covering up by wearing long sleeves, caps and sunglasses will also provide essential protection from the sun for those working outdoors. Lightweight protective clothing won't be too hot or uncomfortable to wear and looks good, as do wraparound sunglasses (available with smoked prescription lenses), baseball caps, tailored fit lightweight t-shirts, cool coloured polo shirts and shorts.
Contego's own Wearmaster® brand offers super trendy polo shirts and includes a brand new range of summer shorts. These Monaco combat shorts come in a range of colours, have many pockets and their easy-to-wear jeans styling means they're fashionable too.
Keep your outdoor workforce safe this summer - find out more about Contego's extensive range of lightweight summer clothing by downloading the Contego Catalogue now or contacting our friendly team on 0800 122 3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org.