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Top tips on how to protect your employees when working outdoors

Posted On : 08/07/2019

If you have employees that work outside its important that they have access to a water, so what can you do to ensure that they stay hydrated?

According to the Desert Survivors website; “the most critical elements to consider for survival in the desert are water and temperature. If you have plenty of water and can avoid being exposed to extremes of hot and cold, your chances of survival are quite good.”

Okay, England isn’t a desert but that doesn’t mean that your workforce isn’t going to be subject to the extremes of heat (or the cold, come to that); and remember that just because it’s a bit chilly it doesn’t mean people won’t be sweating.

Your workforce doesn’t need to be in the baking heat of the midday sun to become affected by dehydration, and the more parched they become the more likely they’ll suffer from heat exhaustion.

If you’ve an employee that’s new to working outside it’s probably a good idea not to send them out without educating them on the importance of rehydrating, especially if there’s a heatwave on its way. Gradually increase their workload and allow them more frequent breaks to rehydrate during hot days.

And don’t forget to closely supervise employees to make sure they are adjusting to the change in weather conditions. In all fairness though, it’s rare in the UK to have long stretches of really hot weather (and no we haven’t forgotten last summer!).

You should also keep an eye on your entire workforce when it’s hot because the more the strenuous the task they are doing the more they’ll exert themselves and the more they’ll be prone to heat exhaustion – and you really don’t want the health and safety people launching an investigation if things go wrong!

It goes without saying that providing access to plenty of water and avoiding continued exposure to extreme heat is your best defence against dehydration.

If you have a site office you could install a water cooler, either plumbed-in or bottled, as well as ensuring that bottled water is kept within easy reach.

You should encourage your workforce to drink small amounts of water often; four cups of water every hour is recommended, although the general train of thought is to drink before you’re thirsty. Caffeinated drinks or liquids containing large amounts of sugar (so-called energy drinks) are best avoided – although the occasional cup of tea does generally hit the spot!

 And don't forget to make sure that your staff take regular breaks, and preferably in a shaded area.

Noel Coward wrote that "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" so schedule heavy tasks earlier in the day or when the heat index is lower.

You could also provide workers with cooling measures such as water-dampened clothing, cooling vests or reflective clothing.

The more aware your workers are about the dangers of dehydration, the more likely they are to spot a problem before it worsens, so make sure your safety meetings remind employees how to avoid heat exhaustion.

These meetings should include how to spot the signs of dehydration such as altered behaviour; faintness that’s not relieved by lying down; cold, clammy skin or hot, dry skin; and little or no urination.

And don’t forget to let people know who they need to call for medical help, as well as ensuring that everyone knows where water is located at the job site and how much to drink during the day. Finally, encourage your workers to wear loose, lightweight and light-coloured clothing.

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