Advice on Working in the Summer Sun for Construction Industry Workers

Advice on Working in the Summer Sun for Construction Industry Workers

17th June 2019

In one of our articles last week, we warned our readers about the risks involved when working outdoors in the summer heat.  We had some advice on what construction company owners can do to protect their employees from the effects of bright sunshine and high temperatures.  As yet, we haven’t had a heatwave comparable with the one we enjoyed last summer, but things can change rapidly and unexpectedly when we’re talking about the weather here in the UK.  Today we’re going to take a look at some of the measures that can be taken by construction workers themselves to ensure that they don’t’ suffer too much in the bright summer sunshine.

Firstly, it’s important to know that there is no legally defined maximum of minimum temperature for working outside or indoors here in Britain, though employers are legally obliged to carry out risk assessments on workplaces to ensure that temperatures are “reasonable”.  However, following the deaths of two Army reservists from heat exhaustion when undergoing training in 2013, the Health and Safety Organisation’s (HSE’s) investigation of the Ministry of Defence MoD) discovered that there had been a failure to plan, assess and manage the risks associated with climatic illness.  Although the HSE was unable to prosecute the MoD as it’s a government body, the case clearly demonstrates the importance of the duty of care on the employer.

Although your employer has a duty of care and a legal obligation to take measures that will alleviate the effects of the heat, as an employee you also have a duty of care towards yourself and your colleagues.  Here are some things that you should be doing to protect yourself from the effects of the warmer weather and bright sunshine:

  • Always use high factor sunscreen when working outdoors.  Yes, real men do wear sunscreen nowadays as we’ve become more aware of just how much damage exposure to the sun can do to our skin.
  • Keep your top on (clothing made from closely woven fabric offers more protection from sunburn) and, if possible, wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
  • Take particular care if you have fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or burns before it tans; if you have red or fair hair and light-coloured eyes, if you have a large number of moles (moles should really be checked and monitored by your doctor).
  • Drink lots of water when working – your employer should provide free access to cool drinking water.
  • Take regular breaks in shaded areas – again, your employer should consider introducing more frequent rest breaks during hot weather and ensure that rest areas are shaded.
  • Take off your personal protective equipment (PPE) during breaks to encourage heat loss.
  • Make sure you know how to recognise the early symptoms of heat stress.

Next week, we’ll have more detailed advice on how to recognise the symptoms of heat stress and heat stroke.  Make sure you follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get a heads up when this important information is available on our website.