Temperatures are set to hit record highs next week. Consequently there is a rise in concerns regarding health & safety. The legislation states that employers need to take safety measures to ensure the workforce is comfortable during the summer months – and this applies to both indoor and outdoor workers.

Heat stress is of particular concerns and although many jobs heat stress is an issue all year round (bakeries, smelting operations and laundries to name a few), it is of particular relevance for many more workplaces during the hot summer months.

What is heat stress?

According to the HSE “Heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. As well as air temperature, factors such as work rate, humidity and clothing worn while working may lead to heat stress. Therefore it may not be obvious to someone passing through the workplace that there is a risk of heat stress.”

To help employers stay safe and compliant when temperatures peak, we recommend that they take the following steps…

1. Carry out a risk assessment

Firstly, carry out a workplace risk assessment. This will help to identify potential hazards to the workforce.

In the risk assessment, consider:

  • work rate – the more physically demanding the job is, the greater the amount of body heat generated
  • working climate – this includes air temperature, humidity, air movement and effects of working near a heat source
  • employee clothing and respiratory protective equipment – may impair the efficiency of sweating and other means of temperature regulation; employee’s age, build and medical factors – may affect an individual’s tolerance. Also consider whether the employee’s clothing can protect them from sun exposure.

Once the risks to the workforce have been identified, steps can be taken to remove or reduce them.

2. Keep indoor workforce comfortable

There are certain risks to indoor workers during the summer, particularly when the workplace starts to heat up. If the workforce are based indoors, there is a legal responsibility to make sure the temperature level is ‘reasonable’. Consider using fans or air conditioning or using physical barriers that reduce exposure to radiant heat.

Think about issuing permits to employees specifying how long employees should work in situations where there is a risk, or allowing them to have rest breaks in cooler conditions, It’s a good idea to ask the workforce how they feel about the temperature. Does anyone complain that the air is too hot or too dry?

Working in a hot environment causes sweating which helps keep people cool but means losing vital water that must be replaced. Provide cool water in the workplace and encourage workers to drink it frequently in small amounts before, during and after working.

3. Keep outdoor workforce comfortable

Individuals who spend long hours working outdoors are more likely to experience sunburn, dehydration, and heat stress / exhaustion. Employers will need to ensure that their workforce take regular breaks in a shaded rest area where possible.

As with indoor work environments, ensure the workforce have access to cool water and encourage them to take water on board at regular intervals throughout the day.

Midday is usually when the sun’s rays are at their most intense and is the hottest point of the day, consider, where possible, adjusting the working hours / routine so as to ensure the workforce can work in cooler periods of the day like in the early morning or evening.

4. Provide suitable clothing & PPE

Under the PPE regulations 2022, employers have to provide the workforce with personal protective equipment (PPE) if there’s a risk to their health & safety that can’t be controlled through other means.

Encourage the workforce to use high-factor sun cream – preferably a minimum of SPF-15 and avoid working in direct sunlight as much as possible. An employer cannot force an individual to wear sun cream but should provide it and encourage the workforce to wear it by educating them on the risks of failing to protect themselves from sun exposure.

Also consider the provision of clothing which filters out the UV rays and sun hats as appropriate.

If you need any advice or assistance then please do not hesitate to contact our H&S team here at the Absolute Works 0333 200 5153 or email info@absoluteworks.co.uk