UK summers seem to be getting hotter and more intense. Working in excessive heat is not only uncomfortable but can be extremely dangerous.
The hot weather can prove problematic when working as a nanny. Whether you are caring for children indoors or when playing outdoors, special measures must be applied, and your employer is dutybound to support you.
Some employers will consider the hot weather as something they have little control over and while that may be true, they do have a duty of care towards you as required by the Health & Safety Executive. All employees have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment and all nannies have both a legal and professional obligation to keep the children in their care safe from harm and that includes harm from the sun and extreme heat. But, what about you?
This guidance concentrates on YOU taking care of YOU. It does not address your “nanny duties”.
When Working Indoors Rising temperatures increase the likelihood of tiredness which in turn increases the risk of accidents. As the temperature goes up we begin to feel uncomfortable, stress levels rise, concentration levels drop, and mistakes happen. In addition, if you are dashing around with lively toddlers, there is a greater loss of fluids leading to dehydration.
During hot weather spells, BAPN receives many calls from members asking about legal maximum indoor temperatures. Surprisingly, there is no legal maximum temperature for working indoors. The Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that temperatures within workplaces must be “reasonable”. This inevitably means it is open to interpretation which isn’t helpful. We advise members to have a discussion with their employers and seek ways to keep the house, you, and the children cool and out of harms way.
To help maintain a "reasonable" temperature in the home, your employer could take the following measures:
Fit safety window locks that allow windows to be left open slightly but in a locked position so that children cannot push them open when reached
Provide air cooling fans
Windows should be shaded to deflect direct heat and glare
Provide plenty of cold drinks
When Outdoors Being outdoors with the children in extreme heat and exposure to sunlight is extremely dangerous as all nannies know but we’re often surprised by nannies who fail to consider the dangers to themselves as well as the children in their care. There is an increased risk of sunstroke, sunburn, and heat exhaustion to you too.
Many of us fail to consider seriously the risks to our health when we’re out enjoying the hot weather:
Heat-Related Stress Too much heat increases fatigue and can cause extra strain on the heart and lungs. The physical symptoms to look for include:
Inability to concentrate
Muscle cramps, nausea, and vomiting
Headaches and blurred vision
Dizziness and fainting
Fatigue and lightheadedness
Heat Stroke This is much more serious than heat-related stress and symptoms can include:
Hot dry skin
Loss of consciousness
Obviously, the latter is extremely serious. This condition requires immediate medical treatment.
Skin Cancer This is one of the most common cancers in the UK and the cancer considered most avoidable.
Your employer has a legal duty to provide you with a safe place to work. If the environment in which you are working becomes uncomfortable as a result of rising temperatures you must speak with them right away. Offer to work with them to find solutions. You may need to carry out a risk assessment to determine the extent of the problem, the kitchen may be poorly ventilated for example, or the nursery windows without shades. The garden may require additional parasols and so on. Often solutions identified can be implemented requiring little additional financial outlay.
Three last words:
High protection sunscreen!