As the temperature increases, so do the dangers of working outside during the hot weather. Knowing how to work safely in hot weather can help prevent heat stress injuries and heat stroke, the most serious heat-related disorder. Other heat-related disorders include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash.
If you work outside what can you do to protect yourself?
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids; drink roughly half a litre before starting and keep topped up throughout the day.
- Avoid dehydrating liquids. Alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks can hurt more than help.
- Wear protective clothing. Lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing helps protect against heat.
- Pace yourself. Slow down and work at an even pace. Know your limits and ability to work safely in the heat.
- Schedule frequent breaks. Take time for rest periods and water breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area.
- Wipe your face or put it around your neck.void getting sunburn. Use sunscreen and wear a hat if working outside.
- Be alert to signs of heat-related illness. Know what to look for and check on other workers that might be at high risk.
- Avoid direct sun. Find shade or block out the sun if possible.
- Eat smaller meals. Eat fruits high in fibre and natural juice. Avoid high protein foods.
Hot weather in the workplace
In the UK there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to be, rather advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. What is reasonable depends on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air-conditioned office, etc).
Keeping cool in work
While employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures. If you have air conditioning switch it on, if you have blinds or curtains use them to block out sunlight and if you’re working outside wear appropriate clothing and use sunscreen to protect from sunburn.
It is also important to drink plenty of water and employers must provide you with suitable drinking water in the workplace. It is important to drink water regularly throughout the day and not to wait until you are thirsty as this is an indication that you are already dehydrated.
Dress code in the workplace during hot weather
Employers often have a dress code in the workplace for many reasons such as health and safety, or workers may be asked to wear a uniform to communicate a corporate image. A dress code can often be used to ensure workers have dressed appropriately.
While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow “dress down” days. This does not necessarily mean that shorts and flip flops are appropriate, rather employers may relax the rules in regards to wearing ties or suits.