As temperatures in the UK soar this week, its important employers are aware of their responsibilities to help protect their workers particularly those working outdoors from symptoms of heat stress.
The HSE suggest that the following controls are put in place by employers or managers for outdoor workers in hot environments:
- Reschedule work to cooler times of the day
- Provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
- Provide free access to cool drinking water
- Introduce shading in areas where individuals are working
- Encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss
- Educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress
Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways, and some people are more susceptible to it than others. Follow this link to view the typical symptoms and share them with your workers.
The HSE have also provided a useful Heat stress checklist which can be used as part of your Risk assessment to ensure adequate control measures are put in place.
The HSE Sun Protection 6-point checklist for outdoor workers is as follows:
- Keep tops on to act as a barrier from the rays of the sun (especially tight woven fabrics).
- Wear a hat with a brim or flap that protects the ears and back of the neck which are easily sunburnt.
- Stay in the shade wherever possible, especially at break/lunch times.
- Use a high factor sunscreen on any exposed skin.
- Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Check skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots and see the doctor promptly if you find anything that’s changing in shape, size, or colour, itching or bleeding.
Expanding on this checklist the HSE have produced a Sun protection printable leaflet. We’ve also created the images below as a quick simple reminder for both Sun Protection and the symptoms of Heat Stress that you can download and share with your outdoor workers via email or text.
Office based workers and mobile / drivers
For office-based workers, high temperatures can also become extremely uncomfortable particularly those with pre-existing health conditions affected by heat.
The law does not a state a maximum temperature in the workplace (due to some industrial settings such as glass works or foundries etc as in these environments it is possible to work safely with the appropriate control measures in place).
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.’
When people are too hot the HSE suggest the following measures:
- providing fans, e.g. desk, pedestal or ceiling-mounted fans
- ensuring that windows can be opened
- shading employees from direct sunlight with blinds or by using reflective film on windows to reduce the heating effects of the sun
- siting workstations away from direct sunlight or other situations or objects that that radiate heat (e.g. plant or machinery)
- relaxing formal dress code – but you must ensure that personal protective equipment is provided and used if required
- allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down
- providing additional facilities, e.g. cold-water dispensers (water is preferable to caffeine or carbonated drinks)
- introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure, e.g. flexible working patterns, job rotation, workstation rotation etc
- placing insulating materials around hot plant and pipes
- providing air-cooling or air-conditioning plant
Drivers and mobile workers should be reminded that long periods driving in hot temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion and potentially accidents.
As with outdoor workers training should be given to recognise the symptoms of heat stress, the importance of staying hydrated (you could provide an adequate supply fresh drinking water for the day) and also the need for rest periods preferably in a shaded area. They should also be encouraged to use the vehicles air conditioning if it is available. Work expectations and schedules may also need to be adjusted to allow for these breaks.
Further resources around working in extreme temperatures can be found on the HSE website: https://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/index.htm