Hot Weather

Summary

Working in hot weather poses significant health risks, particularly in physically demanding environments like construction sites and railways. While the UK's climate is typically moderate, there are occasional hot spells where temperatures can rise significantly.

Working in hot weather poses significant health risks, particularly in physically demanding environments like construction sites and railways. While the UK’s climate is typically moderate, there are occasional hot spells where temperatures can rise significantly.

Employers are required to implement measures to manage the risks associated with working in hot conditions under the guidance of Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulations.

Common Controls and Measures for Hot Weather on Construction Sites and Railways

Hot Weather

1. Hydration

  • Provision of Water: Ensure that fresh drinking water is always available to workers.
  • Encourage Regular Hydration: Workers should be encouraged to drink water frequently before they become thirsty.
Hydration Picture, Drinking Water in the Sun
Hydration Picture, Drinking Water in the Sun

2. Work Scheduling

  • Avoid Peak Heat: Work schedules might be adjusted to avoid the hottest parts of the day, typically between 11 AM and 3 PM.
  • Rotate Jobs: Implement job rotation to limit individuals’ time performing physically demanding tasks during hot conditions.

3. Shade and Cooling Areas

  • Provision of Shade: Temporary shelters or using existing buildings for shade should be provided.
  • Cooling Areas: Air-conditioned rest areas should be available for regular breaks.

4. Protective Clothing

  • Lightweight, Breathable Fabrics: Provide or encourage using lightweight, loose-fitting clothing for air circulation.
  • Sun Hats and Protective Gear: Wide-brimmed hats and UV-protective gear can help shield workers from direct sunlight.
Breathable fabric work when working in hot environments
Workers understand the importance of wearing their PPE properly to stay safe. Still, it’s also important to consider that non-breathable fabrics could introduce other health and safety risks, such as discomfort from sweating, heat exhaustion, and even heatstroke.

5. Sunscreen

  • Availability of Sunscreen: Provide sunscreen with a high SPF to protect against UV radiation.
  • Encourage Regular Application: Remind workers to reapply sunscreen regularly, particularly if they are sweating heavily.
Hot Weather
Hot weather Picture with sun and a thermometer

6. Training and Awareness

  • Heat Stress Education: Train workers on the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash.
  • First Aid: Ensure that there are trained first aid personnel on-site who are specifically trained to treat heat-related illnesses.

7. Monitoring

  • Regular Check-ups: Supervisors should monitor workers’ health and well-being, looking for signs of heat stress.
  • Buddy System: Implement a buddy system where workers can monitor each other for symptoms of overheating.

8. Emergency Procedures

  • Establish and Communicate Procedures: Set up and communicate procedures for responding to heat-related emergencies.

Importance of Worker Participation

Workers should be encouraged to actively monitor their health and safety and report any heat-related symptoms immediately. Open communication channels between workers and management are vital to address potential hazards promptly.

Implementing these controls helps prevent heat-related illnesses and ensures that work productivity does not suffer due to adverse weather conditions. Compliance with safety standards and continuous assessment of weather conditions are essential in maintaining a safe working environment.

This article was written by Mathew Oldham (HSQE Consultancy Ltd). Mathew has over 20 years of experience in health and safety and an MSc (Hons) in Construction Management. Mathew is NEBOSH Health and Safety, Construction, Fire, Environment and Diploma qualified and CertIOSH.

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