The UK is experiencing unusually hot weather which is causing complications across the construction industry. As temperatures soar to over 30 degrees again this week, people are asking, how hot is too hot to work? In this month’s blog we look at the principal contractor’s responsibility to protect both their workers and the project.
How Hot is too Hot to Work?
There is no set maximum temperature when it comes to The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA). However, the act does require employers to provide a safe and healthy working environment at a “reasonable” temperature. Where there is a risk of workers suffering prolonged sun exposure, there is a risk of heatstroke, exhaustion, sunburn, and dehydration. It is your responsibility as principal contractor to ensure that if you choose to continue work, you take precautions.
What Precautions to Take On-Site in a Heatwave
- Ensure you include a sun protection module in your health and safety training. When a weather warning is in place, hold a morning meeting to readdress this policy. Also encourage workers to wear factor 15 SPF or above, allowing time to reapply when necessary.
- Advise all employees working in the direct sun to wear long sleeves and keep their heads and shoulders covered.
- Where reasonably practicable, schedule work to minimise sun/heat exposure.
- Provide onsite water point and shaded rest areas to encourage rehydration.
Other Site Considerations in a Heatwave.
As a project manager you must assess the risk of continuing production in extreme heat. It is not just the effect of the heat on your employees which poses a risk! Operating machinery in extreme temperatures can cause malfunctions and overheating. Working in a heatwave without a full risk assessment could jeopardise your insurance policy or result in injury. It is imperative that you take into consideration the machinery and materials you are working with.
If as an employer, you fail to provide a safe working environment for your employees you are breaching HSWA. This means you are at risk of potential prosecution, criminal charges and even a custodial sentence. However, the HWSA also imposes a responsibility on the employee to take reasonable care of themselves. This means they have a duty to adhere to the safety advice you provide.