Now that we are well and truly in the midst of spring, it won’t be long until summer is here, the temperature soars and we find ourselves bombarded with a host of new health and safety hazards at work.
Your duty of care as an employer requires you to ensure that your workers are as safe as possible under every circumstance and this includes the risks that a change in season and weather can introduce into the workplace.
It might be worth reviewing your site risk assessment specifically during autumn months to prepare for the winter hazards and around this time of year to prepare for summer.
But what kind of dangers should you be aware of and what control measures can you put in place to protect your employees?
Protecting employees with allergies/hay fever
With the pollen count already at a high level, this can be a tough time for those who suffer from allergies and it will only get worse as summer approaches.
Most will already be aware of their allergies and what precautions to take to lessen their distress; however, hay fever can occur in anyone at any time and some may only develop symptoms for the first time this year.
If an employee is showing signs of hay fever such as sneezing, itchy/red eyes, a congested nose and fatigue, then you should speak to them and let them know that they may have allergies and should, in the first instance, visit their local pharmacy to discuss what medication they may need to start taking to reduce/prevent the symptoms. Also, some of the medication can make people drowsy so ask that they try to take the non-drowsy options during work hours (especially if driving or operating machinery).
Protect your skin when working outside
If your employees are required to spend a substantial amount of time outside on a regular basis then this will lead to increased exposure to UV rays.
This is most common for workers within the construction industry.
You must ensure that your workers are appropriately protected from the harmful UV rays, which can lead to sunburn and skin cancer, by providing them with skin protectants such as sunscreen, hats and access to shade. Opt for sensitive versions to prevent allergies.
Keep your workers hydrated
Dehydration is a serious health issue and it causes deaths every summer, so it is important that you communicate this with your employees and remind them about the importance of staying hydrated especially during warmer weather.
Ensure that your workplace has the appropriate facilities so that workers can access fresh, clean water on the premises. This may be via a tap, a fridge dispenser or a water cooler or you may even choose to purchase bottles/glasses of water for your employees and leave them on each persons’ desk/issue personally to act as a reminder.
If any of your workers start to show signs of dehydration, such as feeling dizzy, rapid heartbeat, fatigue or very dry skin, then you must find a quiet place for them to lie down, provide them with water and ensure that they seek first aid treatment immediately.
Dangers of overheating/heat stress in the workplace
Heat stress occurs when an employees’ body temperature reaches an uncomfortably high level causing excessive sweating, heat rash, muscle cramps and even heat stroke.
To prevent this from happening, there are a few control measures that you can put in place when the temperate is particularly high (anything over 30°C is considered a risk).
- Relax the workplace dress code so that employees can wear looser fitting/lighter coloured clothing and remove the need for restricting items such as blazers and ties,
- Provide your workers with a desk fan if your premises has no air conditioning because often, during summer, opening windows has very little effect especially when there is no breeze
- Treat your employees to a cold beverage to keep their body temperature down and help motivate them during what can be difficult working conditions
- Encourage your employees to take slightly more frequent breaks to ensure they are not overworking which can exacerbate the problem
Insects can be a workplace hazard too
All our least favourite creepy crawlies rear their head during this time of year, coming out of hibernation to enjoy the sunshine – like the rest of us.
But insects do provide their own set of risks and dangers that you and your employees need to be cautious of including stings and bites.
If an employee finds themselves under attack from a pesky wasp or mosquito (yes, we do have mosquitos in the UK) then you should make sure they are treated by the assigned workplace first aider immediately.
You also need to be aware of any employees who may have an allergy to insect bites/stings as this can introduce a whole new set of risks that you must be prepared for i.e. swelling, infection etc.
You can attempt to avoid this situation from occurring by asking employees not to wear perfumes/aftershaves with a strong, sweet fragrance or clothing with bright floral colours such as white and yellow as these things attract most insects.
In fact, (fun fact) most insects cannot see the colour red, so this is the best colour to wear if you want to avoid their attention.
If you require any further advice or support when it comes to seasonal safety in the workplace, then call us today on 0845 2626 260 to speak to one of our professional Health and Safety Consultants.