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 – 21ST JULY 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

Maximum workplace temperature: what the law says

As the Met Office declares a Level 3 heatwave alert, and London endures its hottest night in 10 years, two MPs are now taking their campaign to Parliament for employers to be legally forced to provide water, breaks or air conditioning when workplace temperatures are uncomfortably high (above 30C, or 27C where strenuous work is carried out).

In the meantime, whilst the Health & Safety Executive advises that a meaningful figure for maximum workplace temperatures cannot be given (due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries), the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 place a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.

What is a reasonable working temperature?

A reasonable temperature for a workplace depends on work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace.

To find out if you have a reasonable workplace temperature you need to:

  • carry out a thermal comfort risk assessment

A simple way of estimating the level of thermal comfort in your workplace is to ask your employees or their safety representatives (such as unions or employee associations) if they are satisfied with the thermal environment ie to use the thermal comfort checklist (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/assets/docs/thermal-comfort-checklist.pdf).

Use the downloadable thermal comfort checklist to help you identify whether there may be a risk of thermal discomfort to your employees. Please note that this is a basic checklist and does not replace a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, taking account of thermal comfort.

Read the descriptions for each thermal comfort factor, and tick the appropriate box. If you tick two or more ‘Yes’ boxes there may be a risk of thermal discomfort and you may need to carry out a more detailed risk assessment

Assessing thermal comfort

Once you have identified a problem using the thermal comfort checklist, in most instances the guidance on the HSE website will be sufficient to enable you to improve thermal comfort in your workplace.  If you need to take further action in measuring thermal comfort, you should refer to the relevant British Standards (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/assets/docs/british-european-int-standards.pdf) that cover this area.

If thermal comfort is an issue in your workplace you may need to consider it as part of your risk assessment (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg163.htm) process. Read the six basic factors (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/factors.htm) affecting thermal comfort and think about how they may be affecting your employees and about resolving the ones having the largest impact. If the environment is affected by seasonal factors you may need to reassess the risk at different times of year. For example consider scheduling maintenance work to a cooler time of the day.

Controlling thermal comfort

There are a number of ways that you can control thermal comfort in the workplace, some of which are very simple. Click on the link for more information: http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal/controlling.htm

Act on the findings of the risk assessment by implementing appropriate controls. If the effect is seasonal they may only need to be in place temporarily. For advice on controls when working in very hot conditions please refer to heat stress in the workplace (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg451.htm).

For more information, visit the HSE web page http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/faq.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