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Be Heat Sensitive in the Summer Heatwave

HSE, Health & Safety, plumbing...

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Sun Protection

As the summer approaches and most of us look forward to warmer and sunnier days, it is important to remember to take precautions with regards to sun exposure.  Overexposure to the sun is dangerous and can cause issues such as sunburn, skin cancer and heat stress.  People working outside, such as those in the Construction Industry, face an even higher risk as they are more exposed to the damaging ultraviolet (UV) in sunlight than people working inside.

The effects of UV on the skin can include sunburn, blistering, ageing of the skin, and in the long run, it can lead to skin cancer.  Around 125,000 people per year are admitted to hospital with skin cancer each year, making it one of the most common forms of cancer with approximately 2,300 people dying from the disease.

There are steps that you can take, in order to reduce the risks of sun exposure, which include:

  • Realising that a tan is not healthy, but evidence that the skin has already been damaged
  • Keep your top on!  Wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt made from a close-woven fabric that stops the UV rays getting through to your skin is an effective defence
  • ALWAYS use a suitably high level of sun cream – a minimum of sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher; don’t forget the backs of your hands, your ears and your neck
  • ALWAYS wear your safety helmet (hard hat) on site; not only does it protect you from falling objects and bumps, but it is an effective form of SPF
  • Check your skin for unusual spots or moles that change size, shape or colour or that start bleeding: seek urgent medical advice if you find anything that worries you
  • Take your breaks in the shade, and if possible try to work in the shade

The HSE published a guide called “Keep your top on” (http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg147.pdf) which gives further advice about the risks of working in the sun.

Heat Stress

The effects of heat stress are often as serious as that of UV exposure but can be harder to spot.  In order to protect yourself from the effects of heat stress, it is important to ensure you recognise the symptoms, which can include heat rashes, nausea, fainting, muscle cramp, extreme fatigue and headaches.  A heat stroke is most severe, and if not treated urgently, can be fatal.  To stay safe, follow these easy steps:

  • Stay hydrated – this is the best way to avoid heat stress.  Drink 1-2 litres of water a day, and up to 1 litre per hour on very hot days with lots of physical activity
  • Drink before, during (where possible) and after work  
  • Drink water, diluted squash or diluted fruit juice
  • Eat cold foods such as salads and fruit to keep the body temperature down and as an added source of water
  • Don’t leave food in the sun – it attracts bugs more quickly in the heat and can cause food poisoning.

For more information visit the HSE website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/heatstress/)

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