Communication Workers Union
Dave Joyce National Health & Safety Officer
150 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1RX
24 July 2019
Dr Shaun Davis
MA, MBA, MA, MSc, MA
Chartered FIOSH, FIIRSM,
Chartered FCIPD, MIoD
Global Director of Safety, Health, Wellbeing & Sustainability
Royal Mail Group
Heathrow Worldwide Distribution Centre (HWDC)
Re: RMG Outdoor Workforce – Sun Safety and Working in Hot Weather Health Risk Controls:
Further to our meeting earlier this week, I write in relation to the above subject.
The UK Met Office have issued severe warnings and a heatwave will bring temperatures above 35C and forecasters expect temperatures to continue to rise throughout this week, culminating in what the Met Office have said will be the highest ever recorded temperatures in the UK with an all-time record of 38.5C/101F and this is only the start of what will be a very hot summer.
At our very constructive meeting, we discussed both long-term plans in relation to the need to make improvements to the uniform fabrics in relation to the provision of UV protection and also at the same time provide clothing that will cover up the whole body but still provide breathable, lightweight and cool clothing. We need to continue those discussions in conjunction with the National Uniform Manager, Royal Mail Assets and Procurement and our suppliers, currently Dimensions.
In the short-term however, it is imperative that Royal Mail Group (RM, PFWW, RMSS, RMPFS, RM Fleet etc.,) discharge their duty of care, in particular in relation to outdoor delivery staff and ensure full compliance at every office with the Severe Weather Risk Assessment (SWRA). In past years too many delivery units and other operational units just haven’t bothered to comply with the mandatory requirements of the SWRA and have unnecessarily exposed the workforce to risks of sunlight UV exposure and dehydration risks by sending people out regardless of the effects on a ‘see how it goes’ approach and the workforce has continued to ‘roast’ and suffer in the short-term with long term risks such as skin cancer being very real!
We need Delivery Office Managers and Area Operational Managers working closely with CWU Area Safety Reps and we need a commitment, top down from Royal Mail to put staff first on a health and safety first platform, repeatedly preached by RMG Headquarters, even if it means stopping deliveries, shortening deliveries, stopping absorption and other duty modifications. The message should be, do it, and support the workforce and DOMS in making the right decisions is what I am appealing for.
Skin cancer is the most common and fastest rising cancer in the UK, almost all of which is caused by over exposure to UV radiation from sunlight. No UK employer has anywhere near the number of outdoor workers that we have in Royal Mail Group. Therefore, the need to act is imperative for this organisation.
The HSE, NHS and all UK skin cancer charities continually tell employers to ensure that workers;
· Cover up with high UPF rated fabric clothing and a broad-rimmed hat
· Use a broad spectrum UVA Sunscreen – which Royal Mail Group should now start providing to staff
· Wear sunglasses
· Keep in the shade between 11:00am and 15:00pm
Additionally, other important advice is that during hot and humid weather, people are at higher risk of dehydration and heat related illnesses, including cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke and in severe cases of dehydration, heat stroke can result in shock, organ damage and even death.
Royal Mail Group must help keep the workforce hydrated by ensuring they are provided with water bottles and advice on keeping hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, even when not thirsty. Royal Mail should start supplying re-fillable, environmentally friendly water bottles to staff which can carry the Royal Mail Group logo as well as important messages printed on them.
The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) at Work Regulations 1992 set out the law on water provision for workers. Regulation 22 requires an adequate supply of drinking water for all persons at work in the workplace which shall be readily accessible at suitable places for reasons of health and safety and there shall also be provided a sufficient number of suitable drinking vessels. If re-fillable, containers should be suitably enclosed to prevent contamination and refilled at least once a day. Bottled water/water dispensing systems may be provided as a supplementary source of drinking water.
It must not be forgotten that the workplace for outdoor workers is ‘any place or places that a worker works or frequents or incidentally to it during the course of their duties’ as set down in health and safety regulations.
Temperatures today have reached 33C/91F and tomorrow will pass 38.5C/101F. Tomorrow AOMs and DOMs should be taking affirmative action to reduce risks to staff by modifying, reducing or cancelling deliveries and a clear message needs to be communicated from National Level as soon as possible.
RMG needs to immediately issue instructions to action the Severe Weather Risk Assessment making positive changes to outdoor duties.
I look forward to your response.
From Dave Joyce | National Health, Safety & Environment Officer