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.
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.
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.