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With summer almost on our doorstep, the days of lingering around an office window, trying to think of an excuse to get out and lap up the rays, have all but arrived.

But in Sun Awareness Week I feel like we have to ask ourselves these questions:

  • Do we really know how hot the sun is?
  • Are we prepared for the warmer weather?
  • What health risks are there and how can they be avoided?

These questions apply to everyone, including those who work in an office and those who work outside.


Working in an office

In summertime the average office air conditioning setting is likely to be around 19-20 degrees which in comparison to the UK summer temperate sometimes reaching 25 degrees, is 5-6 degrees lower, often making us unprepared for how hot it really is outside.

However for those who work in an indoor environment where there is no air conditioning this can be quite the opposite. In an average non-air conditioned office the temperate in summer can reach into the high 20s. This means that good ventilation, whether that is opening windows or installing a mechanical ventilation system is important for the wellbeing of people within the office environment.  

Essentially, what I’m saying is that it isn’t good for our health or our comfort to be either working in such a hot environment or walking in and out of such different climatic zones in such a short space of time.

In fact, some of the physical effects can this cause include:

  • Dry skin
  • Muscular spasms
  • Headaches

None of which enhance our comfort while at work!

And of course it makes you unaware of how strong the sun (and its UV rays) really is - even on a cloudy day.

So if you’re thinking of popping outside on your lunch break, or to head out on-site and you aren’t prepared for the sun, these tips can help you reduce the risks of heat exposure and sun damage:

  • In the UK the sun is at its hottest between 11am and 3pm so try to sit in the shade
  • Although it’s tempting to expose your arms and legs, it is best to stay covered unless you have adequate sun block
  • If you are out in the sun for long periods, think about wearing a hat or cap
  • Retrieve your sunglasses from the car, or carry a pair with you to protect your eyes
  • Purchase a cool drink or drink adequate water throughout the day

Working outside

There are many occupations where working outside is what the job entails. Gardeners, agricultural workers and those who work in construction are all at risk of over exposure to the sun as well as other heat related issues.

Some of the main hazards affecting those in on-site construction include sweaty palms which increases the risk of dropping heavy objects, dehydration and restriction of their vision while wearing goggles.

So what can be done to help this?

Unfortunately the options of wearing loose clothing, a wide brimmed hat and sandals aren’t really ideal for anyone who works on a building site, but aside from the obvious (like drinking enough water and WEARING SUNSCREEN!) – I’ve tried to find a few tips to help construction teams combat the heat and potential health risks a little more effectively. 

  • Avoid fizzy and energy drinks as these can make you more dehydrated – and avoid alcohol completely while working of course!
  • Be aware of eating a big lunch in case it makes you more tired in the afternoon (thus leading to a lack in concentration) – the heat will only make this worse
  • Watch out for each other to look for signs of heat exhaustion
  • Check out first-aid ways to help a colleague with heat exposure
  • Make sure you’re aware of the daily weather forecast including humidity levels, so you aren’t caught off guard if there’s a sudden heat wave
  • Ensure you wear your gloves when lifting heavy items
  • Check with your clothing and equipment supplier for summer appropriate work gear like breathable t-shirts and tinted eye protectors
Working in the sun and construction

Outdoor working in summer

Protecting yourself while working in the sun is very important.

Health Risks

Aside from the physical effects of temperature change, the risks of heat stress, heat exhaustion and heatstroke can be very serious.

Signs include:

  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Sweating
  • A fast pulse

In fact outdoor workers are even more at risk due to long periods of strenuous exercise which alone can cause heat related issues at any time of the year.

So all in all, the message is to be aware of these issues and solutions, keep an eye out for colleagues who may be getting into trouble, and be aware how sudden temperature changes might affect your body.

But if you leave this article with only one piece of advice, let it be the famous words of Mary Schmich - "Trust me on the sunscreen".

Sun Awareness Week 2017 is between May 8th and May 14th for more information please visit the British Association of Dermatologists.

Ellina Webb is a Marketing Specialist at Mitsubishi Electric

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