Working in Hot Weather: Safety Tips and Regulations

With the current glorious weather in the UK, it’s important to remember that working in the heat is vastly different from relaxing in it, especially when working outdoors. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), approximately 4,500 skin cancer cases each year are linked to outdoor work.

Is There a Maximum Temperature for Workplaces?

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 mandate that employers maintain a reasonable temperature at the workplace, but they do not specify a maximum temperature. There is, however, a minimum temperature requirement: 16°C for general work and 13°C for work involving significant physical activity.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that the workplace does not become uncomfortably hot. This includes providing enough thermometers so employees can monitor the temperature. Regardless of what thermometers show, if most people are complaining about the heat, it’s too hot, and immediate action is required. It’s also important to note that individuals’ responses to heat can vary based on factors like weight and age.

Factors Affecting Heat Perception

Air temperature alone doesn’t provide a complete picture of thermal comfort. Factors such as humidity, wind speed, radiant heat sources, and clothing also play significant roles. To get a more accurate assessment, specialist equipment like a wet bulb globe thermometer or its electronic equivalent, which measures humidity, can be used. The ideal humidity range for comfort is between 40% and 70%.

Calls for Regulation

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has advocated for an upper limit on workplace temperatures. They suggest that employers should be required to take action when indoor temperatures reach 24°C. They propose that staff could be sent home and employers could face prosecution if temperatures at work hit 30°C (27°C for physically demanding work).

Recommendations for Working in Hot Weather

  1. Hydration: Drink plenty of water. Some carbonated drinks can act as diuretics and do not hydrate as effectively as water, potentially leading to heat stroke.
  2. Sun Protection: Utilise suncream dispensers provided on-site to protect against harmful UV rays.
  3. Appropriate Clothing: Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing that allows body heat to escape. Protective clothing should not be tight and restrictive.
  4. Thermal Comfort Checklist: Implement additional procedures by using a Thermal Comfort Checklist. If the checklist identifies many issues, conduct a detailed risk assessment for working in heat. We can provide advice and assistance in creating this assessment.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of workers during hot weather is crucial. Employers should take proactive measures to maintain a comfortable and safe working environment. For more detailed guidance and assistance with risk assessments, please contact us.

HSE guidance can be found here

Download the Thermal Comfort Checklist from the HSE for a comprehensive evaluation of your workplace conditions here

June 25, 2024 | Categories: Lighthouse News |
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