Top 10 Tips for Outdoor Worker Safety
Outdoor working is a year-round phenomenon, with construction and agriculture among those industries that see many employees working outside during the colder months. Along with the changing of the seasons, there are a number of additional risk factors to be considered if part or the majority of your workforce operates outdoors, especially if working long shifts.
Several million people work outside every year. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) Workforce Jobs by Industry report estimates that in December 2016 over 2.6 million worked in construction, 408,000 people worked in agriculture, forestry and fishing, while 60,000 were employed in mining and quarrying. Many other employees in diverse occupations work outdoors, such as individuals providing utilities services or working in the hospitality industry.
There is legislation in place to secure the rights of employees and responsibilities of employers when working outdoors. The Health and Safety Act 1974 secures the provision of health, safety and welfare at work, whilst The Health and Safety Executive specifically provides advice for those working outside, and what employers should bear in mind for the safety of their employees.
We have also compiled a list of the top 10 tips for outdoor worker safety…
- Risk assessment
Identify problems and hazards and decide who is at risk, especially in hot weather. Main factors include:
- Working climate – including air temperature, movement, and proximity to heat sources when working.
- Medical, genetic and other factors – a worker’s age and build may influence heat tolerance.
Comprehensive training can help avoid problems with outdoor working. Employers should advise about the dangers of sun exposure, the risks of heat stress and offer guidance on sun protection and checking the skin regularly for damage.
- Sun cream
Under strong sunrays, skin can burn very quickly, potentially causing severe discomfort, sunstroke or even skin cancer. Sun cream should always be used by outdoor workers and reapplied according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Outdoor workers should be advised to keep covered up comfortably. It is not uncommon for employers to consider relaxing the usual dress code when it is very hot outside, whilst hats should be used in relevant conditions to protect the head.
Employers can encourage workers to keep well hydrated by providing cool water in the workplace, combatting heat stress and overheating. Drinking water regularly will help prevent dehydration and is preferable to coffee or tea where hydration is concerned.
Periods out of the sun can be encouraged by employee breaks in the shade where possible. Workers who can rest comfortably and rehydrate are more likely to work more productively.
Allergies can be triggered if workers are in an environment where they may suffer a reaction. Providing protective equipment such as masks or glasses in problem areas can help prevent issues and keep productivity up.
- Keeping food cool
When employees bring their own food to work, it needs to be kept cool during warm conditions to prevent the possibility of illness and time off work resulting from contaminated food.
- Work rate
Employers can schedule work so exposure to the sun is minimised. Always be aware of the amount of labour needed and the amount of time required for it to be done.
- Heat stress
Where possible, you should control workplace temperature inside. Outside workers need regular breaks, with access to shade, and good hydration to reduce the possibility of heat stress.