Lone working risks in summer do increase as the mercury rises. According to reports by the Met Office, June was the hottest month since records began and if this summer is anything at all like last year there will be at least a few days of heatwaves. Fantastic news if you are in the garden or on holiday, but maybe not so fantastic if you are at work!
Lone workers should not be put at a greater risk than other employees, but the nature of their work can mean that frequently they are. While many workers are affected by seasonal changes, especially when it comes to commuting, lone workers may find themselves more exposed to adverse summer weather conditions.
So, in this blog we are looking at the potential hazards and how to prevent, or at the very least, minimise the lone working risks in summer.
So, with that in mind, why might lone workers be at risk in summer? Firstly, anyone who is physically active as part of their work can be at risk in the heat. For lone workers, typically this can include people making deliveries, contract cleaners and personnel who routinely work outdoors, such as surveyors.
What Are The Risks Of Working Alone In Summer?
The heat of summer can bring some risks for lone workers. For example, there are potential issues to do with tiredness.
When it gets too hot, people sleep less well, and for lone workers without support close by, this could have an impact on them during the course of their working day and on the duties they perform.
The risks from spending a lot of time in the sun and heat increase the chances of getting sun stroke, being dehydrated, and of course sunburn.
If your lone workers work outside alone, they are at more risk from the elements and may not have the time in the working day to get into the shade.
To support your lone workers in the summer, try supplying sun cream and water and encouraging the use of it. If your lone workers wear a uniform, consider supplying a hat and some light clothing as part of the summer uniform.
During heat waves, you might want to think about allowing staff to work deviated hours if possible. This allows them to be out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Air Quality Woes In Summer
Another lone working risk in summer is air quality and pollution.
In summer air quality can be much poorer, with an increase of allergens, dust, and debris. It’s vitally important to consider air quality if you have a respiratory condition, such as asthma. To avoid poor air quality in the summer, try to plan any trips outdoors for the coolest, driest times of the day, typically the morning or evening.
Whereas the NHS suggests not going out between 11am and 3pm when it is hot, for many workers this will not be an option.
One good tip for lone workers can do is to always plan ahead, but even more so in adverse weather conditions. For you, this might mean encouraging them to book meetings so they can be in the car with the air con when the day is at its hottest.
At a level 4 severe heatwave, according to the NHS, the health risks can affect those people who are normally fit and healthy, alongside more vulnerable groups.
Just like the winter, summer has its own extreme weather conditions of course, including thunderstorms and lightning strikes.
The advice during thunderstorms is to immediately take shelter. You might want to consider passing advice out to your staff about what they should do if a storm does strike. This is especially important for field scientists or tree surgeons, for example, who work in remote or exposed areas.
For some people, severe allergic reactions can occur from insect bites, and at best insect bites can be extremely irritating, so having insect repellents or sprays available to staff when lone working outdoors is a good idea.
Working outdoors at any time presents new challenges and hazards but more so when lone working in summer. It is always worth taking the time to consider the environment in which your staff are working in this summer and carrying out a risk assessment. Working alone increases the danger from any environmental risk factor, so be sure that if you are working alone this summer that you’re following good safety practices.
How Can Employers Support Lone Workers?
As employees, lone workers are a hugely valuable business asset. Consequently, it makes sense for employers to look at any systems that could help prevent problems for their workers, as well as policies and procedures to support them, all year round.
A lone worker risk assessment is a vital first step in protecting your staff, but it should be refreshed to taken into account the new risks posed with each season.
First2HelpYou specialises in lone worker safety devices, such as the KIT device, to help make sure lone workers stay connected and supported, wherever their work takes them.