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How to work safely in warm weather in the UK

Rhino Trade Insurance 14 April 2023

Working outside in the intense heat could be dangerous for tradesmen and women as temperatures begin to pick up and summertime arrives in the UK. Although managing employee safety is crucial, many smaller businesses cannot afford to stop operating.

Working in the heat, whether indoors or outdoors, can undoubtedly raise the risk of accidents and injuries. Some companies have little or no interest in looking into control measures since they view this as a seasonal inconvenience they hold no control over. Rhino believes that every employee has a right to a safe and risk-free working environment.

Working in extreme heat is not only uncomfortable but can be risky and even lead to death. Since many tradespeople are concerned about working in the heat, addressing this risk is a top priority. Let's find out how to effectively prepare for the coming summer months. 

Should I work in hot weather?

In the UK, we are lucky that it rarely gets too hot to work outside. However, as the past few summers have shown, our temperatures have been breaking all the records, and the weather has been sweltering. Some tradespeople love this and can't wait to be outside in the blistering heat. Still, as global temperatures have steadily risen over time, heatwaves and long, hot summers have become more typical. This results in more challenging work settings, which can cause heat exhaustion and stress, especially if the workplace lacks air conditioning.

Legally, there is no set limit on working temperature in the UK since it can be challenging to establish the appropriate temperature for a particular workspace. According to the HSE, varying personal preferences makes it hard to establish a temperature condition that pleases everyone.

With that said, the supervision of health and safety risks to yourself and your employees, including those that your working environment can impose, such as excessive heat, is still required by law for employers. Essentially, you must conform to health and safety risks and care for any employees on your payroll. 

How can the heat affect you and your employees?

Heat stress

Excessive heat makes people more tired and puts additional strain on their hearts and lungs. The following are some physical signs to watch for:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hot skin
  • Racing heartbeat/ pulse
  • Nausea, dizziness, and vomiting
  • Skin rash
  • Migraines, headaches and vision blur
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue and sickness
  • A raging thirst that can't quite be controlled
  • Heat stress can also lead to heat stroke

Heat stroke

Symptoms of heat stroke are significantly more severe than heat stress and can include:

  • Sweat stops, and you get hot, dry skin
  • Confusion and brain fog
  • Falling unconscious

Undeniably, these issues are more dangerous and could prove fatal. Medical attention is required right away for any of these situations as the body will take at least half an hour to cool down after becoming too hot.

Skin cancer

With incidents continuing to rise, this is one of the most prevalent cancers in the UK. According to estimates, 80% of incidents could be prevented. Those who work outside are typically exposed to UltraViolet (UV) radiation three to four times more than those who work indoors. 

Workers who spend a lot of time outdoors are substantially more likely to develop skin cancer due to this cumulative exposure. Bricklayers, Builders, Gardeners, Glaziers and more are all susceptible to this condition if precautions aren't taken across your career. 

Other problems

Long-term sun exposure can accelerate the ageing process of the skin. Radiation exposure and glare are also linked to long-term eyesight issues. We have all seen long-distance lorry drivers suffer skin issues in the sunlight. Let's find out how to avoid the risks of working in the heat. 

How to combat working in hot weather as a trade business

For tradespeople who regularly operate outside, the HSE offers the following advice when it comes to working in the heat:

  • If you can, reschedule your job for when it's cooler.
  • Increase the number of breaks you take and provide some shaded areas to allow your body to rest from the sunlight.
  • Aim to provide as much ice-cold water as possible and keep yourself hydrated.
  • Remove PPE (personal protection equipment) when stopping work, as your body can then breathe fresh air and cool down.  
  • Ensure that you and all employees are current on the health and safety aspects of heat stress and how to spot the signs.

What about working in direct sunlight?

Everyone is aware of the risks of excessive sun exposure and how it harms the skin. It can lead to sunburn, blisters, skin ageing, and a higher risk of skin cancer. With more than 50,000 new cases each year, skin cancer is one of the most prevalent types of cancer in the UK.

Long hours spent outside in the summer months will ultimately expose your skin to too much sunlight. When working in the construction industry, this is a significant risk and can prove harmful to your overall health and well-being. 

The HSE offers the following suggestions: 

  • On exposed skin, use a high-factor sunscreen with at least SPF50. 
  • On top, extra protection should be used by people with fair, freckled skin or for anybody who has moles on their body.

How to prepare your business

As an employer, ensure you prepare for warm weather before an issue arises. Risk analyses and health and safety education should be used for this. We also would recommend having a complete insurance suite to protect your business from any unsuspecting claims due to injury or damage. 

Make sure that you look out for yourself and don't push your body too much in warmer temperatures. Also, inform employees that they can speak with you about complaints regarding the heat or the temperature and how to manage their safety.

Last but not least, make sure you or any employees have a lenient policy regarding the heat, keep an eye out for any problems that might arise as they could pose a risk to your business, and foster an open culture where people feel comfortable reporting any adverse health effects from prolonged exposure to the sun.

Why choose Rhino Trade Insurance?

The summer months are always an exciting time for tradesmen and women. You can be out working longer hours, and as the saying goes, 'make hay whilst the sun shines'. With that said, it's best to keep your business, its employees and any people you come into contact with safe. Working in hot conditions can cause an accident or injury and ultimately bite you on the backside financially if a claim is made. 

You can take out quality trade insurance with Rhino to combat the risks. We offer various coverage levels, including Public Liability Insurance, Personal Accident Insurance, Employers Liability protection and many others. 

Interested in exploring what cover options you can take out for your trade business? Find out more here and get a quote in seconds. Or, contact our wonderful UK team on 0116 243 7904. 

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