Outdoor work in the summer: Advice for UK Employers

Warm and sunny days can bring fantastic opportunities for leisure activities. However, the rising heat can unfortunately also have a more serious impact on working environments, particularly for outdoor workers. The heat and sunlight are two sources of risk for employees. Therefore, employers must take extra care in the summer to prevent their employees from working in an uncomfortable environment. Taking steps to mitigate the effects of high working temperature levels is a must.

Working in hot environments

Being in a hot environment for too long can cause heat stress. This occurs when the body can no longer control its internal temperature (not enough heat is lost).

Typical heat stress symptoms include headaches, nausea, heat rashes, muscle cramps and extreme fatigue. The most severe effect to occur from heat stress is a stroke, which can be fatal if not treated early enough. It is for these reasons that working temperature must be effectively managed. Employers must be aware of the risks and take measures, including:

  • Making sure that your employees stay hydrated. Encourage them to keep drinking small amounts of water regularly throughout the day.
  • Providing fresh drinking water. Clearly label any containers to signal where drinking water can be found. Ensure it is free from contamination and easily accessible. You should have enough for all employees under your care.
  • If you provide food, make sure it is kept in a cool environment and not left out in the sun. Cold foods such as salads and fruit are preferred.

Working in the sun

Another major consideration for outdoor workers is exposure to the sun. Sunlight can cause sunburn, blistering and can increase the risk of skin cancer. Employers should take measures to help protect their outdoor workers, who are particularly exposed in the summer. Like other workers, they are entitled to a safe working environment.

  • Make sure all employees wear a safety helmet, as it also protects from the sun and heat.
  • Allow your employees to take extra breaks if needed. Protective equipment can be removed during breaks to improve heat loss.
  • Move work routines to try to avoid the hottest hours of the day when the sun is higher in the sky, It may mean starting earlier in the morning, stopping for a few hours in the middle of the day and finishing later.
  • Employers could provide sunscreen, or at least strongly recommend its use to employees.

It is in the best interests of employers to ensure that all employees are operating under safe working conditions, even on hot and sunny days. Employers should remain flexible and endeavour to find arrangements that will keep their business running whilst taking care of their employees’ health and well-being.

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