With spells of hot weather a regular – if intermittent – feature of a typical British summer, understanding how working on construction sites in extreme heat can impact on your staff and your project is essential.
While there is no set maximum temperature for working outdoors in the UK, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require employers to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.
Employers need to take measures to ensure that employees working in hot temperatures or exposed to the sun do not suffer from heatstroke, sunburn, dehydration or similar conditions.
In this article we consider five areas in which construction companies can do this.
If the project you’re working on is flexible enough to allow it, try and work your outdoor shifts when the UV rays from the sun are at their weakest. The sun is usually at its highest point between 11am and 3pm and the rays are strongest between 1pm-3pm. Can you limit outdoor working at these times?
Physical labour in warmer weather quickly take its toll, even on those used to working in tough conditions. Ensure your staff allow enough time for rest and – especially – rehydration. Make sure fresh water is available. Just taking these simple measure can help boost morale and productivity, ensuring your team is working as efficiently as possible.
Projects with large areas of glass, concrete, near water or with high wind exposure can amplify a workers’ exposure to heat and dehydration. Take these conditions into account when considering the welfare of your site team.
It may be tempting for employees to ditch the hard hat – you need to resist! Include advice on using sunscreen in health and safety or toolbox talks and encourage workers to cover up with light-coloured long-sleeved shirts.
While it may be tempting for staff to copy colleagues in doing the wrong thing, peer pressure works both ways. Set a positive example and encourage employees to look out for one another. Encourage breaks in shade and ensure your staff are taking on plenty of fluids. Heat can make people drowsy – watch out for poor manual handling as it may indicate someone needs a break.
As well as the potential for serious harm to come to your site staff (either directly through the effects of heat or indirectly through accidents caused by heat), employers can be prosecuted for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. Don’t let it get that far. By taking relatively simple steps you can safely maintain work on your site despite the higher temperatures.
Every care was taken to ensure the information in this article was correct at the time of publication (July 2022). Guidance provided does not replace the reader’s professional judgement and any construction project should comply with the relevant Building Regulations or applicable technical standards. For the most up to date Premier Guarantee technical guidance please refer to your Risk Management Surveyor and the latest version of the Premier Guarantee Technical Manual.