Latest News from BPCA

15 July 2022

Red weather warning: how pest controllers can prepare for the heat

HEALTH AND SAFETY

For the first time in its history, the Met Office has issued a red weather warning for extreme heat in the UK. 

redweatherwarningpestcontrolheat

Weather warnings are issued by the Met Office when severe weather has the potential to affect parts of, or the whole of, the UK.

A red weather warning is the most serious and means it is ‘very likely’ that there will be a risk to life.

The Met Office advises: "Dangerous weather is expected and, if you haven’t already done so, you should take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the severe weather."

What does this mean for pest professionals?

We already know that some of you who are self-employed are choosing to work in the mornings and late evenings, taking a break during the hottest parts of the day. 

For the rest of you, here’s some advice that we hope is helpful. 

Legislation and Government guidance on acceptable working temperatures

Although there’s a lot of rumours about what the ‘maximum temperature’ is allowed to be in a workplace, the truth is that there is no set figure.

Temperatures in indoor workplaces are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which place a legal obligation on employers to provide a 'reasonable' temperature in the workplace. But what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ maximum temperature is mostly down to interpretation. 

However, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees. 

This means employers do have a duty of care to employees, so appropriate controls should be in place and risk assessments undertaken to determine what those controls should be. 

Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.

This could be providing air conditioning, refreshments, adjusting working hours so that field staff aren’t taking call outs during the hottest part of the day, allowing staff to relax formal uniform requirements in favour of cooler clothing where safe to do so, ie shorts instead of trousers.

Employees are encouraged to talk to their employer if the temperature is uncomfortable and employers should address those concerns compassionately. 

...employers do have a duty of care to employees, so appropriate controls should be in place and risk assessments undertaken to determine what those controls should be. 

British Pest Control Association

Practical implementation

Pest professionals work both indoors and outdoors, so it’s important to make sure you plan for the heat in both environments. 

Location

  • When it’s this hot you should avoid working in spaces that could exhibit extreme temperature such as attics, ducts, etc
  • If you’re working outdoors try to stick to the shade where possible, and only work in direct sunlight where unavoidable and for short periods. 

PPE

  • If you’re going to jobs that require you to wear heavy PPE like protective bee/wasp suits, consider booking those jobs for a cooler time of day, or asking your manager to do so
  • Take regular breaks, removing the PPE if safe to do so.

Sun cream 

  • This is essential - you personally might not burn easily and think you don’t need it, but that doesn’t mean the UV rays are safe for you and you’re still at risk of conditions like skin cancer or solar keratoses
  • You should use sun cream with a high SPF on any exposed skin - the best protection is to keep your skin covered where possible
  • Employers - you aren't required to provide this for your staff but it's something you might consider doing. 

Clothing

  • Wear a hat when outdoors, as this helps regulate your body temperature and block UV rays
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • We would recommend avoiding shorts, as lightweight trousers will offer more UV protection - however, if you're set on getting your pins out, plenty of sun cream on them please!

Proper rests and hydration

  • Again, take regular breaks throughout the day, more than you usually would. The sun will tire you out and your decision-making could suffer, putting yourself and others at risk
  • Drink, drink, drink! And not just cans of fizzy pop; water might not be as tasty but your body needs it, because it’s losing a lot of water in this heat. 

Employers

  • Take steps to check in with staff regularly throughout the day, making sure they are staying safe and healthy
  • Be prepared to make changes to accommodate staff who might be struggling to cope with the temperatures.

redweatherwarningpestcontrolheat2

Travelling

Most pest technicians will be out in vans and others will be on foot in places like London. 

Either way, it’s important during the heatwave to take extra precautions to keep safe and well.

The Met Office have warned motorists that delays on roads and road closures are possible, with potential for significant welfare issues for those who experience even moderate delays.

When travelling during the heatwave you should:

  • Take a bottle of water with you and stay hydrated
  • Plan and leave plenty of time for journeys, checking travel conditions before you leave
  • If you're travelling by tube or train, be aware that extreme heat can affect infrastructure so check your routes are still operating
  • If you're driving, check your vehicle condition before you leave, especially things like coolant levels and tyre pressure
  • Allow yourself extra breaks from driving where needed, as excess sun can cause dizziness
  • And this one might sound weird, but take an umbrella - if you break down, you may have to sit away from the vehicle in a place with no shade and that umbrella might look silly but it’ll keep some of those UV rays off you. 

Storing product in vans 

Extreme cold and warm temperatures can break down pest control products, and heat could also create a pressure build-up in the bottle.

Take care when opening any bottles that have been exposed to high temperatures.

If your van isn't kitted out with storage solutions that moderate temperature, you should try to protect products by storing them in a cool box, polystyrene box or wrapped in bubble wrap. 

STAY UPDATED

Stay informed with all the latest travel alerts, weather updates and hot weather advice.

Met Office weather warnings

National Highways travel alerts

NHS: how to cope in hot weather

HSE guidance

Xpert HR: resources for employers

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