Staying Safe during Hot Weather Workdays

contractor on site sunny day

As UK summer temperatures start to rise (finally!), outdoor work becomes increasingly hazardous for tradespeople. While it’s crucial to prioritise worker safety, many smaller businesses can’t halt operations due to the heat. Addressing these concerns becomes essential, especially given a recent Toolstation survey indicating over half of tradespeople expressed concerns about sunburn during outdoor work. Yet, a surprising number admitted to not using sunscreen.

Is There a Temperature Cap for Work Environments?

Interestingly, there’s no specific upper limit for workplace temperatures. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) emphasises that employers maintain a “reasonable” workplace temperature, especially during outdoor operations in hot settings.

Following last year’s heatwave alerts, the HSE highlighted employers’ legal obligations to maintain such temperatures. However, what’s considered “reasonable” differs based on workplace specifics. Like any other risk, the heat brings with it certain legal expectations.

Defining “Reasonable Temperature”

To safeguard their crew, smaller contractors can apply the principle of thermal comfort, which the HSE describes as a gauge for workers to assess when the heat might compromise their performance and well-being. It’s paramount for workers to prioritise their safety and that of their colleagues. Excessive heat can impair judgment and manual work ability.

John Rowe, the acting chief of HSE’s Operational Strategy, emphasised: “During heatwave alerts, employers must recognize their duty to maintain indoor workspaces at bearable temperatures. Every worker deserves a safe working space, prompting employers to consider flexible work arrangements.”

Recommendations for Hot Weather Work

For those braving the outdoors in the summer, the HSE suggests:

  • Shifting tasks to cooler parts of the day.
  • Taking regular breaks, ideally in shaded areas.
  • Ensuring easy access to chilled drinking water.
  • Setting up shaded zones at work sites.
  • Recommending removal of personal protective gear during breaks to facilitate cooling.
  • Training workers to spot early signs of heat stress.

Sun Exposure at Work

It’s common knowledge that excessive sun exposure can lead to sunburn, skin blisters, accelerated skin aging, and heightened skin cancer risk. Skin cancer is alarmingly prevalent in the UK, with over 50,000 new cases annually.

Given that construction work often entails extended outdoor periods, the HSE recommends:

  • Applying sunscreen with at least SPF50 on exposed skin areas.
  • Extra protection for individuals with fair, freckled skin and numerous moles.

Concerns About Working in High Temperatures?

Employees should initially address their concerns with their supervisors. When there’s a consensus on thermal discomfort, employers need to conduct a risk assessment. The absence of a universal maximum temperature threshold is because certain industries, like bakeries or foundries, can’t meet such criteria. Instead, they adopt alternative means to manage temperature effects. Likewise, smaller construction firms should adopt similar strategies to cope with outdoor heat.

For a comprehensive guide on the HSE’s thermal comfort, refer to the checklist provided by HSE: Thermal Comfort Checklist.

I can therefore confidently recommend Goldcrest Insurance to anyone that wants good affordable insurance with great customer service.

- Greg Newman - DOR-2-DOR

Read more testimonials

All our Quotes are tailor made to get you the best cover

Request a Call Back