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Working Safely in The Heat - Sun Awareness Week

16 May 2018
 May 16, 2018

This week has seen the return of warm, sunny weather to the UK – just in time for Sun Awareness Week. From May 14th-20th many will be looking to remind people of the dangers of sun exposure and advise on how to stay safe.

For those working outside there’s a lot more to consider than just getting sunburn, which itself is a serious issue. Extreme heat can also cause exhaustion, with those out in the sun at risk of developing heat stroke.

It takes just two hours for those engaged in moderate work to begin to feel the initial stages of heat stress, which if not treated rapidly can result in unconsciousness.

Safety in the Sun – 6 Tips for Working in Hot Weather

  • Keep hydrated, cool water is best for this. When it’s hot, aim to have a drink every 15-20 minutes – even if you don’t feel thirsty. Avoid tea, coffee or soda as these are diuretics and can make you more dehydrated.
  • Reschedule jobs to cooler parts of the day or implement a rotation system so staff are not exposed to heat for an extended period of time. The hottest part of the day is usually between 11am-3pm.
  • Take more regular breaks, employers should ideally provide somewhere shady for workers to rest.
  • Cover up and wear sunscreen on exposed skin, follow instructions and reapply when necessary. Use at least SPF 15, or higher for those with a tendency to burn.
  • Carrying a panic alarm is especially important if you’re working alone, some even have a ‘mandown’ feature which can detect if you collapse or fall and alert a specialist monitoring centre.
  • Make sure you’re aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Look out for the following signs and seek help if you suspect yourself or a colleague are feeling unwell as a result of the hot weather:

Heat Exhaustion

  • Headache, dizziness, light-headedness and fainting
  • Skin that feels moist
  • Faint pulse
  • Mood changes, irritability or confusion
  • Nausea or vomiting

Heat Stroke

  • Elevated body temperature above 103°F (39.4°C)
  • Hot, dry skin with no sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Mental confusion or loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or convulsions


What’s the legal maximum working temperature?

In the UK this isn’t specified, however Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that a reasonable temperature should be maintained, so employers must monitor heat levels in their working environment to ensure they are comfortable.

Some have called for the introduction of a maximum working temperature, suggesting 30°C for those outdoors, lowered to 27°C for physical work.

Can I leave work if it’s too hot?

At the moment this decision is entirely at your employer’s discretion; however, a common-sense approach should be adopted in cases where a significant number of employees are complaining about the heat. Under those circumstances, The Health and Safety Executive advocates that a risk assessment is carried out and action taken accordingly, whether this means bringing in additional equipment to keep workers cool or asking them to down tools.

Working in hot conditions can not only have an adverse effect on productivity, but those suffering under the effects of fatigue caused by heat are also more likely to suffer an accident. Therefore, due to this and the reasons already mentioned, it’s extremely important that employers take the matter seriously by paying attention to their staff and acting in their best interests.