Sun safety for traffic controllers is essential in Australia. In fact, when you work outside, the sun is a health and safety issue. In particular, heat can be extremely dangerous. As a result, Absolute Traffic Management wants to share its sun safety tips for traffic controllers. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone that helps boost mood and helps feeling calm and focused. However, while the sun’s UV rays help your body create vitamin D, which is important for your immune system, bones, and blood cells, they can also harm us after too much exposure.
People who work in the sun all day, like traffic controllers, are at greater risk of the effects of sun exposure and need extra protection.
And, it’s not just a matter of slip, slop, slap when you’re in the sun all day every day. So, workers and worksite managers need to know the causes and signs of heat exhaustion. And, ensure everyone stays safe on the job. So, in this blog, we are going to present the sun exposure effects and our sun safety tips for traffic controllers.
The Sun-Related Effects On Body And Mind
To begin with, everyone knows that the sun’s heat can be dangerous in large doses and high temperatures. But, not everyone knows about a less understood danger – ultraviolet radiation. And, this danger isn’t related to heat. In fact, you can be exposed to UV rays even when it’s cloudy. So, the sun emits UV rays, but so do other things, like hospital equipment. For instance, you may have heard warnings about using solariums/tanning beds due to dangerous levels of UV exposure.
UV radiation can permanently damage your skin and cause cancers.
Then, everyone is at risk of the effects of sun exposure. And, this, no matter your age or your skin color. However, people with fair skin or moles and older men are at the greatest risk of developing skin cancers. As a result, if you work out in the sun, it is essential to protect yourself. And, not just from the sun’s heat, but also its UV rays.
What Are The Heat Effects On Your Body?
Next, physical work, surrounding air temperature/humidity level, and your physical condition are factors that contribute to heat stress. And, the effects of heat can come on very quickly. So, you should be vigilant when you’re working in the sun to avoid heat-related illness.
Heat can cause:
- Dehydration (signs: thirst, increased breathing and heart rate, weakness/light-headedness)
- Heat rash due to hot and humid weather causes small red spots in places where sweat collects and creates itchy skin rash
- Stomach cramps: Abdominal cramps are warning symptoms of a heat stroke
- Sunburn: red, sometimes swollen, and painful skin caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun
- Fainting: heat syncope like feeling faint or light-headed, you feel intense fatigue, dizziness, or have fainting spells
- Heat stroke: typically occurs after exposure to hot, humid weather, especially for prolonged periods. The body becomes dehydrated and is unable to regulate its internal body temperature.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too LateSo, you can get very sick and vomit or even fall unconscious. (We’ve all seen ball boys and girls collapse in professional tennis matches!). And, your skin can also be damaged by burns and UV rays.
In fact, too much sun exposure can lead to:– skin changes (redness, pain, itchy skin, blisters, dehydration, peeling), – early aging, – lowered immune system, – eye injuries, and – skin cancer. And, you may not be able to see this damage until a doctor notices an irregularity. But, by then, it could be too late.
What Are The Heat Effects On Your Mind
Then, as a traffic controller, as well as affecting your body, the sun’s heat can affect your mind. And, it can be in subtle ways that you may not even notice at first. But, intense heat can reduce your concentration and cause you to react more slowly to situations.
Heat stress, or when too much heat is absorbed by the body, can cause extreme exhaustion.
However, it can also mess with our thinking, making things like everyday tasks and simple math a little harder to do. In fact, at high temperatures, unwanted proteins and ions can build up in the brain, often causing an inflammatory response and negatively affecting normal functioning. Also, high temperatures can cause cell death. As temperature rises, proteins can unfold, which can kill cells. And, you may become confused or dizzy, and find it hard to make good or fast decisions. Obviously, this is extremely dangerous when you work in a complex situation where vehicles and pedestrians depend on you for their safety.
A Danger For Mental Health
In addition, some serious mental health issues result from the heat. In fact, there is an increase in psychiatric hospitalizations during the summer months. And, an increase in suicide attempts, acts of violence, increased irritable and angry mood.
Sun Safety for Traffic Controllers
In this second part, we are sharing our sun safety tips for traffic controllers. For instance, every worksite needs health and safety policies and procedures to protect workers whose role involves standing out in the sun. So, if you haven’t read your organisation’s policies yet, ask your manager where you can find them.
What Traffic Controllers Can Do To Protect Themselves From The SunTo decrease the risk of prolonged sun exposure, make sure to:
- Wear sunscreen: apply it 30 minutes before sun exposure. And, remember to reapply it every 2 to 3 hours.
- Wear light long-sleeve shirts, pants, hat with neck flap and sunglasses.
- Drink plenty of water: if you feel dehydrated, move to a cool place. And, loosen tight clothing, drink frequent, small amounts of cool (not cold) water. Also, have sports drinks, which have electrolytes and salt and can help treat heat cramps.
- Take breaks throughout the day and rest: You are entitled to a paid break of fifteen minutes every two hours (see Australian Standard and State Codes).
- Exercise regularly so your body doesn’t retain more heat due to excess weight
What Worksites Can Do To Protect Workers From The SunSun safety tips for traffic controllers include the management teams. To reduce the risk of exposure to heat and UV radiation and protect workers from heat-related illnesses, worksites should:
Have a shelterwhere workers can go if it gets too hot, for meal breaks, or for a rest.
Roster shiftsAround the hottest part of the day. In fact, it is essential to set time limits spent working in the sun during summer’s highest risk time. In extreme heat situations, during day time periods of 10am to 3pm, supervisors should consider rotating traffic controllers at shorter intervals than 2 hours. For example, 30 minutes and 1 hour intervals to alleviate the impact of heat issues.
Organise breaksfor the hottest part of the day. Employers must ensure that traffic controllers are receiving a break from traffic control duties. And this, for at least 15 minutes after every 2 hours of stop/slow traffic control work. This time may be spent re-applying cool packs to vests. And, taking other steps such as resting in shaded areas. Or, undertaking other duties that do not involve stop/slow work in the heat.
Provide personal protective equipmentThis includes clothing (wear white, light long-sleeves shirts, and a hat) and protective glasses that block UV rays. And, sunscreen that you must regularly apply on all exposed areas.
Provide a constant supply of waterWorkers should drink water all day like it’s their job!
Set up fansin the work and rest areas.
On hot days, the surface temperature of asphalt road surfaces is much higher than the one of grass. Standing on a grass verge can help reduce heat stress from traffic controllers.
If you start to feel off and notice signs like rapid breathing and high body temperature or see a co-worker who does, tell someone immediately.In fact, heatstroke can come on quickly, and you may collapse. And, if untreated, it can damage your brain.
Sun Safety For Traffic Controllers: The Right To A Safe Work Environment
To conclude, no traffic controller should reach the point of heat exhaustion. Or, risking heat stroke by not taking adequate action to apply cooling measures. At Absolute Traffic Management, safety is our number one priority. You have the right to stop work or refuse to complete a task in your traffic controller role if it exposes you to a health and safety risk. Safety is at the forefront of everything we do. We ensure that all staff, contractors and members of the community are not exposed to danger or risk whilst we operate. With over 27 years experience we operate at the highest standards. So, speak to your manager if you have any concerns about sun safety. And, bring some ideas about how to improve it. Also, you can speak to your organisation’s health and safety representative or adviser. And, if you’re a worksite manager, encourage open communication. By doing so, workers feel comfortable talking to you about their concerns and ideas for improvement.