Advice for employers of outdoor workers (council refuses to supply gardeners with sun screen in case they are allergic)

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The HSE ‘Myth Busters Challenge Panel’ Case 351 is the subject of this week’s news update.

‘Health and Safety’ is often incorrectly used as a convenient excuse to stop what are essentially sensible activities going ahead. The Health and Safety Executive has set up an independent panel – the Myth Busters Challenge Panel – to scrutinize such decisions.

The Panel is chaired by the HSE Chair, supported by a pool of independent members who represent a wide range of interests. This includes small businesses, public safety, Trade Unions, the insurance industry and others.

This Panel looks into enquiries regarding the advice given by non-regulators such as insurance companies, health and safety consultants and employers and, quickly assess if a sensible and proportionate decision has been made. They want to make clear that “health and safety” is about managing real risks properly, not being risk averse and stopping people getting on with their lives.

If you think a decision or advice that you have been given in the name of health and safety is wrong, or disproportionate for the activity you are doing, you can contact the panel here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/contact-myth-busting.htm. But please note this is not the right route into HSE for raising a concern or complaint about your workplace, or for general enquires. Instead, go here (http://webcommunities.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/concernsform/answerQuestionnaire?qid=594147) to raise a workplace health and safety concern, here (http://www.hse.gov.uk/contact/complaints.htm) to make a complaint, or here (http://webcommunities.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/advice/answerQuestionnaire?qid=593891) to get advice.

Issue (Case 351)

A council would not supply their gardeners with sun screen during hot weather as it was a health and safety issue as someone may be allergic.

Panel opinion

The council is not obliged to provide sun screen to outdoor workers, but there is nothing under health and safety law to prevent it doing so. HSE encourages employers to provide advice on sun protection for those who work outside for most of the day including using sun screen to prevent long term health damage.

Skin at work: Outdoor workers and sun exposure

What is the problem?

Too much sunlight is harmful to your skin. A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged. The damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight.

Who is at risk?

If work keeps you outdoors for a long time your skin could be exposed to more sun than is healthy for you. Outdoor workers that could be at risk include farm or construction workers, market gardeners, outdoor activity workers and some public service workers. You should take particular care if you have:

  • fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans;
  • red or fair hair and light coloured eyes;
  • a large number of moles.

People of all skin colours should take care to avoid damage to the eyes, overheating and dehydration.

What are the harmful effects?

In the short term, even mild reddening of the skin from sun exposure is a sign of damage. Sunburn can blister the skin and make it peel.

Longer term problems can arise. Too much sun speeds up ageing of the skin, making it leathery, mottled and wrinkled. The most serious effect is an increased chance of developing skin cancer.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Keep your top on.
  • Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, during your breaks and especially at lunch time.
  • Use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.

Where can you get further information?

The following free leaflets have been produced by HSE:

The following website also provides useful information:

For more information, click on the above links or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk, and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence

 

 

HEALTH & SAFETY NEWS UPDATE – 9TH JUNE 2016

We hope you find our news updates useful. If you know of anyone who may benefit from reading them, please encourage them to register at the bottom-left of our news page (http://www.eljay.co.uk/news/) and we’ll email them a link each time an update is published. If in the unlikely event any difficulties are experienced whilst registering we’ll be more than happy to help and can be contacted on 07896 016380 or at Fiona@eljay.co.uk

Managing workplace temperature – Britain set to experience hottest summer in 40 years

According to news reports, weather experts have predicted that we’re about to experience the hottest summer in 40 years. This is worrying, considering a recent work environment survey of 12,000 people across 17 countries, which revealed that UK employees are most likely to be unhappy with their workplace temperature, and with less than half of those being able to do something about it.

Minimum/maximum workplace temperature

The law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

  • 16°C or
  • 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort

A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. Factors other than air temperature, ie radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

These Regulations only apply to employees – they do not apply to members of the public, for example, with regard temperature complaints from customers in a shopping centre or cinema.

The following guidance outlines your responsibilities as an employer, and suggests some ways you can manage the temperature in your workplace for the ‘thermal comfort’ of your employees. Thermal comfort describes a person’s state of mind in terms of whether they feel too hot or too cold. How you manage the effects of temperature of your workplace depends on whether it is indoors or outdoors and the normal operating temperature of that environment.

Indoor workplaces

You should provide:

  • a reasonable working temperature in workrooms – usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work (unless other laws require lower temperatures)
  • local heating or cooling (ie making best use of fans, opening windows, using radiators) where a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained throughout each workroom (eg hot and cold manufacturing processes)
  • thermal clothing and rest facilities where necessary, eg for ‘hot work’ or cold stores
  • heating systems which do not give off dangerous or offensive levels of fume into the workplace
  • sufficient space in workrooms

When people are too hot

You can help ensure thermal comfort in warm conditions by:

  • providing fans, eg desk, pedestal or ceiling-mounted fans
  • ensuring that windows can be opened
  • shading employees from direct sunlight with blinds or by using reflective film on windows to reduce the heating effects of the sun
  • siting workstations away from direct sunlight or other situations or objects that that radiate heat (eg plant or machinery)
  • relaxing formal dress code – but you must ensure that personal protective equipment is provided and used if required
  • allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down
  • providing additional facilities, eg cold water dispensers (water is preferable to caffeine or carbonated drinks)
  • introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure, eg flexible working patterns, job rotation, workstation rotation etc
  • placing insulating materials around hot plant and pipes
  • providing air-cooling or air-conditioning plant

When people are too cold

You can help ensure thermal comfort when working in the cold by:

  • providing adequate workplace heating, eg portable heaters
  • reducing cold exposure by designing processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products where possible
  • reducing draughts
  • providing insulating floor coverings or special footwear when employees have to stand for long periods on cold floors
  • providing appropriate protective clothing for cold environments
  • introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure, eg flexible working patterns, job rotation
  • providing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get hot drinks or to warm up in heated areas

PPE and thermal comfort

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is considered to be a ‘last resort’ to protect employees from the hazards in the workplace (PPE Regulations 1992).

PPE reduces the body’s ability to evaporate sweat. Additionally, if the PPE is cumbersome or heavy it may contribute to an increase in the heat being generated inside the body.

Wearing PPE in warm/hot environments and/or with high work rates may increase the risk of heat stress.

Removal of PPE after exposure (and where necessary allowing it to dry out or replace with dry PPE before permitting re-entry) will prevent any heat retained in the clothing from continuing to heat the employee.

PPE may prevent the wearer from adapting to their environment by removing clothing because to do so would expose them to the hazard that the PPE is intended to protect them from. Ensure that people wear their PPE correctly (eg they do not undo fasteners to increase air movement into the garment) and thereby expose themselves to the primary hazard.

Very high or low workplace temperatures

You may require specific advice for your workplace if you are working in very high or low temperatures, for example on heat stress, dehydration or cold stress.

If thermal discomfort is a risk, and your employees are complaining and/or reporting illnesses that may be caused by the thermal environment, then you should review the situation and if necessary implement appropriate controls to manage the risks:

  • the thermal conditions may need to be monitored and where possible recorded as part of your risk management programme
  • health surveillance or medical screening may be required for staff who have special requirements due to pregnancy, certain illnesses, disabilities and/or maybe taking medication. This is particularly relevant when working in temperature extremes. Medical advice should be sought if necessary
  • working habits and current practices need to be reviewed periodically and (where necessary) changed, to control the risks

For more information visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/index.htm or contact us on 07896 016380 or at fiona@eljay.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence