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26th June 2018

Working outdoors in Hot Weather

The Lighthouse H&S advice line receives many queries each year from clients who have employees working outdoors in hot weather and want to know their obligations.

With temperatures set to hit 30 degrees Celsius in many parts of the country this week, it’s important to ensure you have considered the additional risks faced by staff.

Maximum Working Temperature?

Firstly, it should be stated that there is no maximum working temperature enshrined in the law.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’’

It’s written like this for a reason, as the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace. This can obviously differ massively in temperature range from a kitchen to a cold store, an office to a warehouse.

In fact, rather than an upper temperature, the regulations specify that temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C (or 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort.) Clearly however this can’t apply to those whose workplace is outdoors.

Outdoor Working

When working outdoors the effects of the weather in the UK environment can potentially have a serious impact on an employee’s health if the risks have not been considered or properly managed. This impact may be immediate or it may occur over a long time period.

With temperatures likely to be near 30 degrees Celsius in many parts of the country this week, work outdoors in this heat can lead to dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, sun-burn, fainting, and – in the most extreme cases – loss of consciousness.

Control Measures

There are therefore a range of sensible and proportionate measures which employers should implement for outdoor workers during the hot weather:

  • Ensure employees have access to free drinking water
  • Promote the regular use of sunscreen
  • Where possible, reschedule work to cooler times of the day (i.e. before or after mid-day)
  • Provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to resting areas
  • Introduce shading in areas where individuals are working
  • Encourage the removal of personal protective equipment, when resting to help encourage heat loss
  • Ensure heads and torsos are kept covered when working in the sun
  • Consider allowing staff to adopt less formal attire when temperatures rise.

Information for Staff

It’s important that workers are educated about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress – handily the HSE have produced a short leaflet which can be easily distributed to staff, delivered as a tool box talk or simply placed on the notice board. The leaflet can be downloaded here.

Appoint Lighthouse As Your Health & Safety Competent Person

The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.

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