Construction worker sun protection
27 August 2018
Health & Safety for construction workers in summer sun, and the duty of care placed upon employers
As this summers temperatures reached near record highs of 33.3C, the risks to the health of construction workers associated with hot weather must be assessed and controlled by employers and those managing construction projects.
Outdoor workers are at a significantly higher risk of skin damage, including developing skin cancer in the longer term, than indoor workers. The failure to properly appreciate and manage the risks from working outside during hot weather is graphically illustrated by the fact that construction workers account for 44% of the estimated 48 ‘vocational’ skin cancer caused deaths per year in the UK, according to the British Journal of Cancer .
The law in relation to worker sun protection
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) imposes a non-delegable duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of its employees. A similar duty is owed by employers under Section 3(1) HSWA in respect of non-employees, such as contractors.
The law requires duty holders to take reasonable steps to assess and control foreseeable risks
Many of the measures that could be taken by employers to minimise the risk of skin damage may be perceived as unnecessary or difficult to implement and manage. However, the law requires duty holders to take reasonable steps to assess and control foreseeable risks arising from work activities and the working environment. A failure to do so will give rise to a breach of that duty, with proof of actual harm to workers not being required for a criminal offence to be made out.
A considerable amount of HSE and construction industry guidance is freely available, including HSE publication INDG147 entitled “Keep Your Top On“, to assist duty holders in controlling the risks associated with working in hot weather.
What can employers do?
Practical ways in which the risk of skin damage can be minimised include;
- where possible, rescheduling work to cooler times of the day
- providing more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
- providing free access to cool drinking water
- introducing shading in areas where individuals are working
- encouraging the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss, and…
- educating workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress
- dizziness and confusion
- loss of appetite and feeling sick
- excessive sweating and pale, clammy skin
- cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
- fast breathing or pulse
- temperature of 38C or above
- intense thirst
If someone is showing signs of heat exhaustion they need to be cooled down.
4 steps to cool someone down
- Move them to a cool place.
- Get them to lie down and raise their feet slightly.
- Get them to drink plenty of water. Sports or rehydration drinks are OK.
- Cool their skin – spray or sponge them with cool water and fan them. Cold packs around the armpits or neck are good too.
Stay with them until they are better - they should start to cool down and feel better within 30 minutes. If they don’t - seek medical attention.
Health & Safety in Construction Qualifications and Courses
There are various courses RISK are able to provide to individuals and businesses to ensure those working under your instruction are operating safely.
Ideal foundation training - for individuals looking to develop a broad understanding of the management of health and safety risks within construction. It enables the management of building and construction site health and safety risks effectively.
IOSH Managing Safely in Construction
This course provides construction managers and supervisors with practical health and safety knowledge. Enables them to handle actions they need to take in relation to employees and contractors in a construction environment.
The SMSTS course or CITB Site Management Safety Training Scheme
If you are involved in the management or planning, organising, monitoring, controlling and administering construction safety - you can only work on a site if you are SMSTS certificated
The SSSTS course is part of the CITB Site Safety Plus Scheme and is the industry recognised standard qualification to equip first line managers/supervisor’s or those seeking to become a manager/supervisor, with an introductory level of health and safety.
Employers should take their duty to minimise the risks to the health and wellbeing of workers
This includes managing the risks posed to those working outside, as seriously as the duty to minimise the risks from work activities such as, working at height and the operation and use of plant and equipment.