Summer stress: how to protect workers in the heat

As the weather gets warmer, it’s important not to just get carried away thinking about barbecues and beer gardens – it’s really important that you protect your workers from heat stress and put in place controls to manage temperature and exposure in the workplace.

In the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers have a legal responsibility to provide a comfortable working environment, which includes a comfortable temperature.

So here’s what you need to consider to keep your people safe when the mercury rises.

Understanding the regulations

The Workplace Regulations 1992 state that employers must maintain a reasonable and comfortable temperature in the workplace. There’s no specific maximum temperature limit in the regulations, but you’re responsible for assessing and controlling heat levels to ensure the wellbeing of your employees.

It’s important to consider factors like the nature of work (will workers be physically exerting themselves?), health conditions, local climate, airflow and ventilation when deciding on your measures.

Protecting workers from heat

To protect workers from heat-related risks, you should consider:

  1. Risk assessment – you should make sure that temperature/weather factors are included in relevant risk assessments so that potential heat-related hazards are spotted. This includes assessing factors like exposure to direct sunlight, high temperatures, and heat-generating processes.
  2. Adequate ventilation – make sure that the workplace is well-ventilated to promote air circulation and reduce heat build-up. You could use fans, air conditioning, or open windows and doors for airflow.
  3. Shade and rest areas – provide shaded areas where employees can take regular breaks to cool down and rest. These areas should be easily accessible and have seating and drinking water.
  4. Hydration – promote proper hydration among workers by providing access to clean drinking water. Encourage employees to drink fluids regularly, especially during hot weather or when engaging in physically demanding tasks.
  5. Sunscreen – Consider providing sunscreen to workers.
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – assess the need for appropriate PPE to protect workers from excessive heat. For instance, consider providing lightweight, breathable clothing that protects your people without compromising comfort.
  7. Training and education – educate employees about the risks associated with heat exposure, heat stress symptoms, and preventive measures. Train them on recognising signs of heat-related illnesses and how to respond appropriately.
  8. Flexible schedules – consider adjusting work schedules to minimise exposure to extreme heat, like rescheduling outdoor work during cooler times of the day or using shift rotation to reduce time in the heat.
  9. Monitoring and communication – regularly monitor temperature levels in the workplace and encourage employees to report any concerns or discomfort related to heat.

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