Working in the Heat

This week the Met Office has issued an extreme weather warning amidst the latest UK heatwave. The next few days are likely to see significantly elevated temperatures, reaching 32⁰C on Monday and predicted to climb even further.

The Met Office’s extreme heat warning has only been issued twice before.

You must make sure you have the right advice and guidance to work safely.

The temperature must be reasonable in your workplace. There’s no law for maximum working temperature, or when it’s too hot to work.

Whether you work in an office, factory or construction site it is important to ensure that all workers will be as safe as possible.

If you manage an office relax the dress code. If office wear usually means wearing a suit, relax this rule in hot weather. Allow more informal wear such as no ties or no suit jackets to cope with the heat.

Provide refreshments. By law, employees should have access to fresh drinking water, but providing ice and squash will refresh people even further.

Offer desk fans, or temporary cooling units to improve air circulation and keep people cool at their desks.

Use curtains and blinds to block out sunlight to prevent the office from getting hotter.

Avoid over exertion. If you usually go out or exercise at lunch, take care not to do too much, and consider staying out of the sun where possible.

Factory and workshop managers could also relax dress codes.

Often simply moving people away from windows or reducing heat gain by installing reflective film or blinds to windows can be a very effective way of keeping a workplace cooler.

Providing fans or opening windows can also help workers feel cooler, however both these become less effective at higher temperatures. Portable air-cooling cabinets are also available, which are more effective.

Allowing staff to be more flexible in their working arrangements will reduce them having to travel to work in overcrowded trains or buses. Allowing them the flexibility to finish either earlier or later can help, as can allowing them more frequent rest breaks.

It is very difficult for the construction industry to relax dress codes to cope with the heat. PPE is there to protect individuals. It is not something that can be removed without the potential for serious consequences.

The dangers of working outside in the heat can lead to heat stroke and other heat related problems. Heat stroke is a serious condition where the body is no longer able to control its temperature. This causes the body temperature to raise to dangerous levels within 10 to 15 minutes. Should emergency treatment not be provided, heat stroke can lead to permanent disability or death. Symptoms of heat stroke are:

  • Dry, hot, reddish skin and lack of sweating
  • High body temperature
  • Strong, rapid pulse
  • Chills
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech

Whilst we cannot change the working hours or regulations on workwear, we encourage all workers to be on the look-out for their workmates to ensure that they are not suffering in the heat.

The best ways to keep your team cool and hydrated in the hot weather is:

  1. Ensure they drink plenty of fluids – two to four cups of water every hour, not just when they are thirsty.
  2. Ensure they have drinks bottles.
  3. Discourage the consumption of alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks.
  4. Issue PPE that is lightweight, light coloured and loose fitting.
  5. Encourage your workers to slow down and know their limits to work safely.
  6. Assign extra workers for physically demanding outdoor jobs.
  7. Get workers to wear a sun hat or accessorise their hard hats to keep the sun off their faces and necks.
  8. Ensure rest periods and water breaks are in a shaded or air-conditioned area.
  9. Suggest use of damp rags to wipe faces or place around necks.
  10. Make sure people use sunscreen.
  11. Avoid or block out direct sun if possible.

Request a callback to review your workplace safety.