OUTDOOR WORKING - Take Care In The Sun

With more people in the UK succumbing to skin cancer, what safe systems of work should you introduce for those employees who work outside and just how far are you expected to go? 

A burning issue 

Many workers, such as those in construction and gardening, spend much of their working day outside. If this applies to you, then you’re likely to have taken precautions to guard against the elements, e.g. cold and rain. But have you considered the risks of working outside in the summer, not just from heat but from the sun itself? With incidences of skin cancer increasing rapidly, what, if any, steps should you take to advise and protect your staff against these risks? 

Legal position 

As your staff are still at work, you owe them the same duty of care for their health and safety, as you would if they were in an office or factory all day. This means that you need to assess the risks to them of being outside during very hot periods and introduce control measures accordingly. If you’re concerned about your potential liability for any incidence of skin cancer, the truth is that a claimant would have real difficulty in proving that you were responsible for it. After all, it could just as easily be caused by the typically British approach to excessive sun worship at weekends and during summer holidays. Nevertheless, do make your staff aware of the risks of being in the sun without taking adequate precautions.

Nature of the problem 

According to figures produced by the National Health Service (NHS), over 2,000 people die from skin cancer each year in the UK. This is more than a doubling since the early 1980s. In addition, there are over 69,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year. 

Warning signs 

Those most at risk are those with pale skin, especially those with fair or red hair who have lots of freckles/moles, and who burn easily. However, all staff who spend a lot of time working outside should be aware of the warning signs. The main ones are as follows: 

• a new mole which appears, or an existing one which is growing in size. 

• any mole with a ragged edge, as ordinary moles have a smooth, regular shape. 

• any mole which contains different colours. 

• a mole which itches, bleeds, or is inflamed. Ordinary moles shouldn’t cause any discomfort. 

Control measures 

Due to the potential risks involved, staff are advised to do the following:    

  • Cover up in the sun, e.g. wear a T-shirt and wide-brimmed hat to prevent burns to the head and sunstroke.
  • To wear suitable sunscreen and to re-apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Drink lots of water. Staff should remember that thirst is a sign of dehydration.
  • Look at the tasks undertaken and consider if working hours or patterns can be altered in order to reduce the time spent outside whilst the sun is at its strongest, between 12 noon and 2pm.
  • Have a break from the sun and stay in the shade whenever possible; especially during your lunch break.
  • Check your skin regularly for any unusual spots or moles. See your GP if you find something of concern.

Look at altering work patterns to avoid the lunchtime sun and follow HSE advice by encouraging staff to cover up. If you want to be really safe, issue a guide warning of the danger signs of skin cancer, e.g. changes to moles.


Safety Alert - New Welding Risk Control Measures

As a result of new scientific evidence being published, the HSE now expects a higher standard of welding fume control. What risk control measures should be implemented when welding is undertaken?

Important changes – Why?

In 2017 a paper published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) led to welding fume being designated as a “Group one carcinogen”. It’s relatively rare for the IARC to put a substance in this group; there are only 100 in this category in total. This designation means that there’s evidence to prove that the substance is “Carcinogenic to humans”, i.e. it causes cancer.

HSE’s response

As a result of the IARC’s reclassification, the HSE reviewed its current position on welding. It recognised that the standards of control it had previously described in its guidance would be insufficient to protect workers from the risk of cancer. There was clearly some significant work carried out in the background at the HSE as it was not until 14th January 2019 that it announced any changes.

What changes have the HSE made?

Previously, many businesses had assessed that natural ventilation was likely to provide adequate protection to staff when welding outside, particularly when the work was of short duration. Now, under the new HSE standard, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is to be used for all outdoor welding operations.

When the work takes place indoors the HSE expects the use of local exhaust ventilation (LEV). If LEV is unable to capture fumes effectively, RPE must be worn as well.

What should business owners do?

Tip 1. Determining whether your LEV is likely to be effective in capturing the fume should take into account visual evidence and the results of your system’s thorough examination and test under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. This examination and test is required every 14 months.

Tip 2. For occasional short duration welding, you should find that a disposable respirator (designed for welding fume) provides suitable protection. However, you may prefer the comfort of a filtered air-fed hood. This hood involves a much higher initial outlay but has several advantages, including that facial hair does not affect performance.

Tip 3. If in doubt regarding RPE, speak to a reputable specialist supplier.  Safety Aide have negotiated with one such supplier, Weldability SIF – contact them on 01462 482200 quoting “SRC-CS4009”. Once you’ve decided on a product, write the specification into your COSHH assessment. 

Tip 4. Review your risk assessments, making sure that they reflect and take into account these stricter requirements. Ensure that staff are instructed in any revised safe method of work.  Safety Aide have created a safe working practice to provide to staff.  To download your free copy – please click here

Note. Given that this is a hot topic, and that inspectors will be checking up on businesses on site, it’s time to review your arrangements against the new expected control standards before the HSE come knocking.

As welding fumes have been classified as a carcinogen, respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is required, even when welding takes place outside. Inside you’ll need extraction equipment and possibly RPE as well. Make sure your methods of work and documentation are up to date.


Be prepared whatever the weather

Slip and trip accidents increase during the winter season for a number of reasons: there is less daylight, leaves fall onto paths and become wet and slippery and cold weather spells cause ice and snow to build up on paths. There are effective actions that you can take to reduce the risk of a slip or trip. Regardless of the size of your site, always ensure that regularly used walkways are promptly tackled.


Is there is enough lighting around your workplace for you and your workers to be able to see and avoid hazards that might be on the ground? The easiest way to find out is to ask your staff. Another way is to shadow your employees for a couple of days, walk the main internal and external routes that they use throughout their working day. It is important to do this both inside and outside of the workplace, as the effect of light changes during the day. If you can’t see hazards on the ground, you will need to improve the lighting (e.g. new lights or changing the type of bulb).

Wet and decaying leaves

Fallen leaves that become wet or have started to decay can create slip risks in two ways, they hide any hazard that may be on the path or they themselves create a slip risk.

Put in place a procedure for removing leaves at regular intervals; you might even consider removing the offending bushes or trees altogether.

Rain water

In dealing with rainwater:

When fitting external paved areas ensure that the material used will be slip resistant when wet.

Discourage people from taking shortcuts over grass or dirt which are likely to become slippery when wet. Consider converting existing shortcuts into proper paths.

On new sites, before laying paths, think about how pedestrians are likely to move around the site. Putting the path in the right place from the start may save you money in the long term.

Many slip accidents happen at building entrances as people entering the building walk in rainwater. Fitting canopies of a good size over building entrances and in the right position can help to prevent this.

If a canopy is not a possibility, consider installing large, absorbent mats or even changing the entrance flooring to one which is non-slip. 

Ice, frost and snow

Identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example: - building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet.

Monitor the temperature, as prevention is key.

You need to take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast. Keep up to date by visiting a weather service site such as the Met Office.

Put a procedure in place to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians off the slippery surface;

Use grit or similar, on areas prone to be slippery in frosty, icy conditions;

Consider covering walkways e.g. by an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight.

Divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.

If warning cones are used, remember to remove them once the hazard has passed or they will eventually be ignored.


The most common method used to de-ice floors is gritting as it is relatively cheap, quick to apply and easy to spread. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most commonly used ‘grit’. It is the substance used on public roads by the highways authority.

Salt can stop ice forming and cause existing ice or snow to melt. It is most effective when it is ground down, but this will take far longer on pedestrian areas than on roads.

Gritting should be carried out when frost, ice or snow is forecast or when walkways are likely to be damp or wet and the floor temperatures are at, or below freezing. The best times are early in evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before employees arrive. Salt doesn’t work instantly; it needs sufficient time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor.

If you grit when it is raining heavily the salt will be washed away, causing a problem if the rain then turns to snow. Compacted snow, which turns to ice, is difficult to treat effectively with grit. Be aware that ‘dawn frost’ can occur on dry surfaces, when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface. It can be difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.


£850k fine after ladder fall! What went wrong?

The accident

In March 2017 an employee of HPAS Ltd, trading as Safestyle UK (S), fell over three metres from a ladder while trying to install a bedroom window on the first floor of a property. As a result of his fall the worker required surgery for a broken knee cap. Following the accident, the HSE found that the installation of windows was not being routinely carried out from the inside of properties, which could have reduced the work at height risk, and ladders were being used in unsafe ways. There was also no system in place for monitoring the safety of work, leaving employees unsupervised and therefore at greater risk. There were problems in the planning of the work, including the poor selection of equipment, plus the ladder used was not footed or tied which meant it was able to slip.

In court

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR), which states that employers must ensure that work at height is properly planned, appropriately supervised, and carried out in a manner which is safe as far as is reasonably practicable. The company was fined £850,000 with £1,083 in costs.

The right tools

For work of this type a ladder is unlikely to be suitable. They are good for general access but less so as a substitute for a work platform. This is outlined in the legislation. To comply with the WAHR, ladders may only be used for work at height: (1) when a risk assessment has shown that using safer alternatives is not justified because of the low risk and short duration of use; or (2) because there are existing workplace features which prevent other access equipment from being used.

Tip. If your workers need to use both hands to carry out the task while on the ladder or use their hands to carry equipment up and down, a straight ladder is unsuitable. Three points of contact must be maintained.

Correct process

If you have determined that a ladder is the right access equipment, having regard to the above restrictions, there are several actions you must take.

Tip 1. Firstly, if you have five or more employees your risk assessment must be written down. This should demonstrate that the work is low risk and explain the precautions to be taken. 

Tip 2. Train workers in the content of the risk assessment, correct ladder use, care and inspection. You can use the HSE’s leaflet (INDG455) to support your training. It includes sensible advice and clear diagrams showing how three points of contact works in practice and how to secure the ladder.

Tip 3. Check that the specification for ladders is up to the job. For site work, an industrial grade ladder is needed.  A ladder inspection checklist can be downloaded free here.

If three points of contact cannot be maintained, a straight ladder is not suitable. Your risk assessment must show that a ladder is justifiable because the work is low risk and of short duration.


Have You Assessed Your First Aid Needs?

Under health and safety legislation, employers are required to assess their first aid needs and implement the findings. Why not use our document to prepare for a medical emergency?

Is this necessary?

Employers must complete an assessment of their “first aid needs” in order to comply with the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (HSFAR). There is no legal requirement for you to have written evidence of your assessment, but it’s a good idea to do so. Having your assessment documented provides a record that it was undertaken and it’s easier to review your provision in the future.  Safety Aide provide this assessment document free of charge. Click here for this document.

Tip. The manager completing the assessment should have sufficient knowledge of the business to ensure all circumstances are considered, for example they should know about employees with health conditions, specific hazards, shift patterns and the frequency of lone working.

Completing our document

Our first aid needs assessment is based on HSE guidance to enable you to meet the legal requirements. It begins with an explanation of the Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 (HSFAR), followed by a section outlining the basic details of your business and premises. Here you must give details of your location, the name of the manager completing the assessment and its verification, the date of completion and the planned review date. Following this, you are invited to explore four factors which affect your first aid needs. The headings are: (1) “Risk of injury”(2) “Persons at risk”(3) “Location/accessibility to emergency personnel”; and (4) “Hours of work”.

In completing the form you’re guided through the process, considering what types of medical need might arise, how quickly professional help may arrive, and the hours of cover required by first aid personnel. There are notes explaining the content which is expected in each section.

Tip 1. When considering the types of injury or medical incident which might have to be dealt with, review past accidents and talk to first aiders about their experiences.

Tip 2. There is no direct legal requirement for your first aid arrangements to cover non-employees, but you may wish to do so, particularly if your premises are open to the public, or your services are provided for residents or customers.

Ready for action

Having thought through all the factors which affect your decisions you’re then invited to draw conclusions about the required first aid equipment and the numbers and level of training of first aid personnel. For completeness we’ve included a space to describe your arrangements for keeping records of first aid treatment.  Safety Aide provide competitive first aid training across the UK to all BAGMA members at a local centre or on-site. Please contact us

Tip 1. Read the HSE’s guidance as you work through these sections (see the next step). This will help you to identify particular facilities and equipment which are needed, beyond a standard first aid box. It will also help you to decide the degree of training needed for staff.

Tip 2. In the final box summarise any “Further action required”. This might include equipment to be purchased, training requirements and refresher courses, routine checks of first aid boxes, etc.

Our form helps you to review key factors, including the site location, type of workplace, hazards and risks, the convenience of emergency services, first aid equipment and the number and training of first aid personnel. Your completed document provides proof that the exercise has been undertaken properly.