Working in hot temperatures
Health and Safety, Occupational Hygiene

Working in hot temperatures

There’s no denying we’re all enjoying this beautiful sunshine! But when it comes to working in this heat or even working outside in this heat, we need to ensure our colleagues and employees are working safely.

Working in the sun and hot weather poses serious risks to health. Make sure you’re working safely.

Even in the temperate climate of the UK, working in the sun and hot weather presents risks to your health, which are heightened for those who work outside. One of the most serious risks is skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world, with occupational UV exposure being an attributable factor in one death and five new cases of skin cancer per week in Britain.

There’s no law for maximum working temperature, or when it’s too hot to work, because every workplace is different.

No meaningful upper limit can be imposed because in many indoor workplaces high temperatures are not seasonal but created by work activity, for example in bakeries or foundries.

However, employers must stick to health and safety at work law, including:

  • keeping the temperature at a comfortable level
  • providing clean and fresh air

What the law says

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace.

This depends on the work activity and the environmental conditions.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations require reasonable workplace temperatures for indoor areas of construction sites.

Where the site is outdoors, you must provide protection from adverse weather. Site rest facilities must also be maintained at an appropriate temperature.

Assessing the risks

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers must:

  • assess the risks to workers
  • put controls in place to protect them

Temperature in the workplace is one of the risks you should assess, whether the work is being done indoors or outdoors. You should consult with workers or their representatives on the best ways to cope with high or low temperatures.

Outdoor working

HSE guidelines state that UV radiation should be considered an occupational hazard for those who work outdoors. Therefore, employers of outdoor workers have a legal duty to safeguard, as far is reasonably practical, their employees from the effects of UV radiation.

When working outdoors, the weather can have a serious impact on worker’s health if the risks have not been properly managed.

This impact may be immediate or occur over a longer time, leading to conditions like skin cancer.

The weather can also affect a worker’s ability to keep safe, for example when handling machinery.

There are several ways to keep yourself and your employees safe from the effects of UV radiation exposure when working outdoors:

  • Keep a supply of sun cream of at least SPF15 in a convenient location, for example at the doorway of farm buildings. Sun cream wall dispensers can be used for ease. Sun cream should be reapplied throughout the day.
  • Stay covered up, with lightweight trousers and long sleeved top.
  • Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and during your breaks and especially at lunch time and during the hottest part of the day.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Check your skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if you find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding

Heat exposure

Working in the heat presents an additional set of risks, such as exhaustion and heat stroke.

Steps that you can take to protect yourself:

  • Stay hydrated – keep a bottle of water on you.
  • Avoid dehydrating liquids, such as alcohol, tea, coffee and caffeinated soft drinks, which can hurt more than help.
  • Wear lightweight, light coloured and loose fitting clothing to help protect against heat, changing clothing if it gets completely saturated.
  • Pace yourself. Slow down and work at an even pace. Know your limits and work safely in heat. If possible, avoid work at the hottest time of day. Work in the shade if you can.
  • Schedule frequent rest and water breaks, in shaded or air conditioned areas.
  • Use a damp rag to wipe your face or put it around your neck.
  • Avoid getting sun burn – cover up, apply sun cream and follow the advice above.
  • Avoid direct sun as much as possible.
  • Eat cold foods, particularly fruit and salads with high water content.
  • Be alert to signs of heat-related illness. Know what to look for and look out for others working with you. Signs include headaches, dizzy spells, loss of appetite and nausea, excessive sweating, cramps in the arms, legs and stomach, fast breathing and pulse, a temperature above 38C, and intense thirst.

Steps that employers can take to protect workers include:

  • Rescheduling work to cooler times of the day.
  • Providing more frequent rest breaks and introducing shading to rest areas.
  • Providing free access to cool drinking water.
  • Introducing shading in areas where individuals are working.
  • Encouraging the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss.
  • Educating workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress.



Sources used: and