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Key considerations and risk management actions for the use of outdoor areas.
Steps you can take to stay safe and protect yourself and others when working outside.

In all areas where new risks are introduced, even outdoors, ensure that the relevant Risk Assessments are undertaken. These should be fully reviewed, updated as appropriate and the findings shared with your workforce, and where applicable, any contractors. 

Additional guidance on risk assessments can be found at:

A few things to consider when undertaking fire risk assessments:
  • Carefully consider where external heating, cooking, lighting or any electric cables are positioned.
  • All sources of ignition should be kept away from combustible items which may include trees, shrubs, timber decking, furniture or awnings / canopies.
  • Heating and cooking appliances should be on a stable flat surface and away from areas where they are likely to be knocked over.
  • Electric wiring should be suitably protected and installed away from heavy traffic areas. 
  • Do not place heaters or cooking appliances close to any building or structure and especially near any fire exit routes.
In the event of a fire always call the Fire & Rescue Service and do not attempt to fight a fire involving a gas cylinder. If safe to do so, isolate the fuel source. Maintained fire extinguishers, suitable for the type of fires anticipated, should be installed and only used for first aid firefighting by those trained to do so.

Any cooking or heating appliance must be suitable and specifically manufactured for use outdoors. They should always be used by trained employees and supervised whilst in use. All appliances should be used and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.

Many different types of fuels can be involved, for example gas cylinders, wood, charcoal and their storage arrangements need to be fully assessed. All bulk storage of fuel should be kept as far away from ignition sources as possible. Only keep the minimum amount of fuel.

Any electrical installation must be designed for its intended purpose and the environment in which it is located, including outdoor spaces. For this reason, a competent electrical contractor must always be employed for electrical installation and maintenance work.  In addition, extension leads and adaptors should be avoided where possible.
  • Any lighting must be suitable for outdoor use and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • No combustible items should be kept next to or near lighting or electrical wiring.
  • Ensure that there are no trailing leads which can be tripped over or vehicles can damage.
  • Electrical hazards should be specifically considered as part of the risk assessment process, recognising the potential implications for safety and fire for example.

Additional information and guidance can be found:

If smoking is allowed outside, it is important that the area smoking is allowed is suitable. It should always be away from any highly flammables or gas cylinders, away from combustible structures and waste storage areas. If you decide to provide a smoking shelter it must be safe and suitable for the purpose, comply with the relevant legislation, and it mustn’t increase the fire hazard on the premises.

Suitable and sufficient ashtrays, ash-cans or cigarette butt-bins should be provided. These need to be emptied each day into a suitable metal lidded bin or container, separate from other waste, wetted down or otherwise safely extinguished.

Condition and maintenance of outdoor areas and surfaces need to be assessed, monitored and managed in order to avoid slips, trips and falls. Any debris, spillages including broken glass must be removed and disposed of appropriately. Also think about the potential impact of adverse weather, even in the summer months.

Planning in advance is key and should include design and suitability, safe and competent erection, dismantling, maintenance and inspection. Suitable and regularly reviewed risk assessments must be completed by a competent contractor and cover all aspects, such as fire safety, security and health & safety.

Additional information and guidance can be found:

We may think that flood events only occur during Winter months, but in 2007, the UK saw exceptional rainfall over June and July. It is only now that we are fully understanding the cost involved. The Environment Agency estimate the overall cost of the Summer 2007 floods is between £2.5 billion and £3.8 billion, with a best estimate of £3.2 billion.  

More recent flood events, saw flash flooding in Somerset. Where eye witnesses reported roads turning into rivers. Edinburgh was hit by severe storms and it is thought that half the average rainfall for July, fell in less than an hour. The costs involved in these and other flood events is yet to be understood.  

Many individuals and businesses never recover from these events, but it is often stated that effective planning could prevent or reduce the financial impact.

Key actions you can take:

Too much exposure from UV radiation from the sun can cause sunburn, blistering and skin aging and could lead to skin cancer. Anyone is at risk and from an employers perspective it is important to ensure that employees and others working under their control are aware of the risks and the controls required to protect themselves from harmful exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

According to figures released by Cancer Research UK, melanoma skin cancer deaths have been increasing dramatically in the UK, with the rate rising two and half times since the 1970s and an increase of almost 50% of the condition in men in the last decade. This, despite the fact that almost 9 in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented by staying safe in the sun and avoiding sunbeds.

Information shared as part of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health No Time to Lose campaign serves to further highlight the issue, and the relevance of workplace related exposure.

From an employer’s perspective it’s important to ensure that employees and others working under your control are aware of the risks and the controls required to protect themselves from harmful exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

  • Wearing appropriate clothing to protect skin;
  • Protecting your head, face, ears, neck and eyes;
  • Coming out of the sun during the most powerful ultraviolet periods if possible, and stay in the shade during breaks;
  • Using a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and a UVA protection rating of at least 4 stars. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and be regularly reapplied;
  • Checking skin regularly and reporting any symptoms or concerns to your doctor.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health No Time to Lose campaign aims to further highlight the issue and the relevance of workplace related exposure.

Often associated with those working inside in environments such as foundries and bakeries (where it is an issue all year round), heat stress can also be an issue for those working in other sectors, particularly during the warmer summer months.

Heat stress arises when your body’s means of controlling temperature begins to fail, with contributing factors including air temperature, humidity, work rate and clothing.

Symptoms are varied, but can include heat exhaustion, heat stroke, muscle cramps, an inability to concentrate, heat rash, fainting and an excessive thirst. In extreme cases and if not detected at an early stage, heat stroke can result in death.

Acknowledging the potential for people to adapt to hot conditions and / or change behaviours to try and cool down, in some situations that won’t be possible. To that end, where there is a possibility of heat stress in a work environment, employers should carry out a risk assessment.

  • work rate - can mechanical or other aids be provided to reduce the work rate?
  • working climate -
    a) Is it possible to avoid working during the hottest parts of the day, or to provide more regular breaks?
    b) Can temperatures be controlled or reduced using mechanical aids such as fans or air conditioning or can general ventilation be improved?
  • dehydration - provision of cool drinking water and encouraging employees to drink frequently and in small amounts both during work activities and after is key to avoiding dehydration
  • personal protective equipment - consider suitability for the environment
  • training - make sure employees are aware of the risks, symptoms, control measures and emergency procedures. Employees may not appreciate the risks, particularly those that are inexperienced
  • occupational health advice - in some circumstances occupational health advice may be needed, particularly where an individual has a health condition that could encourage the onset of heat stress and where a need for health monitoring is identified. You can find further information on occupational health and health surveillance at Allianz Risk Management  
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have published a brief guide on Heat stress in the workplace and a checklist to assist with the risk assessment process and understanding the causes, effects and measures to reduce the risks. Information on the impact of dehydration and the ways to avoid it is also provided.

Difficult to measure and to define in that this predominantly relates to how people feel, i.e. either too hot or too cold. Environment (sources of heat and humidity), in addition to personal (clothing for example) and work-related factors (physical demands and work rate) will all influence thermal comfort, and it is therefore important to recognise that hotter weather conditions will play a part.

Productivity, morale and general health and safety can all be positively impacted when thermal comfort is managed and controlled, recognising that when people are uncomfortable, it can affect cognitive behaviours and concentration, and increase temptation to:

  • take short-cuts to avoid spending time in areas where they perceive it to be too hot; and/or 
  • not wear personal protective equipment because they feel it's too hot.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identify six indicators of thermal comfort, all of which should be considered in determining the potential impacts on employees:

Environmental:

  • air temperature
  • radiant temperature - radiant heat sources include the sun
  • air velocity
  • humidity - prevents the evaporation of sweat from the skin in hot environments, and therefore limits the main method of heat reduction

Personal:

  • clothing insulation
  • metabolic heat / work rate.

Assessing and measuring thermal comfort is known to be difficult, and in many cases it might be a case of asking employees and / or representatives of employee safety or safety representatives if they are satisfied with the thermal environment.

HSE have developed a checklist to support this process. If thermal comfort is an issue in your workplace, it may be something you need to consider as part of your risk assessment process.

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