Staying safe in the sun

Please read this reminder about staying safe in the sun as we are expecting warm weather in many parts of the UK and Ireland over the next few days.

RNLI lifeguards on Rhyl Beach

Hot weather is forecast in many parts of the UK and Ireland over the coming weeks, with temperatures expected to be over 30°C in some areas. 

Staying safe in the sun will help us all enjoy the warm weather, particularly for those of you volunteering or working outside.

General sun safety information for all volunteers and staff 

Whatever your role, you can use the seven S’s for sun safety:

  1. Shade – only go out in the sun if you must. Stay sheltered and in the shade where possible.
  2. Slip – on a T-shirt. Long-sleeved shirts with high neck collars are recommended, as well as sun-protective materials.
  3. Slop – on sunscreen. Apply in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines, making sure it has enough time to absorb into the skin for effective protection. Reapply regularly in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations, and more often after swimming, sweating heavily or towel drying. A small number of people may be sensitive to some types of sunscreens and may need to choose a brand suitable for sensitive skin.
  4. Slap – on a hat. Wide-brimmed hats that have side pieces protecting the ears and neck are recommended for maximum protection.
  5. Sunglasses – with appropriate UV protection.
  6. Sunshine – be aware of the time and the extra risk around midday.
  7. Sip – make sure there are plenty of fluids available and encourage all team members to keep themselves well hydrated. Avoid drinking ice cold water in large amounts when hot as it can cause the body to go into a state of shock.

In addition to the above, you and your teams should:

  • Ensure all team members or crew are aware of the expected weather. Brief them on the risks associated with heat-related illness and the warning signs, which you can find below. 
  • If you have access to fans or air conditioning, use them to keep cool.
  • When working as part of a team outdoors, try to rotate shifts so one person isn’t out in the sun for long periods of time.
  • Take regular breaks – slow down and try not to overexert yourself.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks as these can increase dehydration.
  • If you have to travel, keep a bottle or two of water in the car in case of traffic jams or breakdowns, try to keep your car cool, and plan rest breaks into your journey so you can safely stop and get anything you may need.

Sun safety information for operational volunteers and staff:

  • Lifeguards are issued with sun-protective PPE as part of their role.
  • Consider planning training exercises for cooler times of the day.
  • If excessively hot, lifeboat crews could use their helmets to scoop seawater up to help them keep cool.
  • While swimming off the lifeboat is not appropriate, consider conducting a person recovery drill from the water to help keep cool.
  • On services, consider a crew change if possible.
  • The air temperature may be high, but the sea temperature will not have increased as dramatically – the chance of cold-water shock is greater in these conditions.
  • Wear thin under-layers under a drysuit to avoid excessive sweating.

Dealing with heat illness

Heat illness occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. Typical symptoms of heat illness are:

  • Heat exhaustion – fatigue, nausea, headache, sweating, thirst, cramps
  • Heat stroke – hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness.

If you think someone is suffering from heat illness, take early action:

  • Where practical, move them to a cool, shaded area
  • Where practical, loosen or remove items of clothing to assist cooling
  • Encourage the casualty to take small sips of water
  • Call for assistance from casualty care trained personnel or, if unavailable, call 999 or 112 and ask for the ambulance.

Heat stroke requires immediate first aid and medical attention. Delayed treatment may result in death.

Enjoy the sun safely

Keeping ourselves safe first means that we can be there for anyone who needs our help, so please share this reminder with your teams and encourage everyone to be mindful of sun safety during hot weather. 

The RNLI will continue to share our vital water safety messages over the coming days, including our Float to Live message, and you can help by sharing these from social media or our website.

Thank you for sharing with your communities and networks. Please keep safe and enjoy the good weather over the coming days.