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Working safely in warmer weather

08 August 2022

As summer temperatures in the UK soar, working outside in the extreme heat might prove riskier for tradespeople. Managing the safety of workers is paramount, but many smaller firms can't afford to stop working. Taking steps to address this risk is a key concern, with more than half of tradespeople saying they were worried about getting burnt while working outdoors, according to a recent Toolstation poll. Despite these concerns, many said they weren't using sunscreen at all.

What's the maximum temperature for the workplace?   

Surprisingly, there is no maximum legal temperature at work. Still, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that employers must make sure that their place of work remains at a reasonable temperature and manage the risk of working outdoors in hot environments. Following the recent weather warnings, the HSE reminded employers of their legal responsibilities to their employees, but the definition of "reasonable temperature" varies and depends on the type of workplace. Heat is a hazard and comes with legal obligations like any other hazard.

What is a reasonable temperature?    

Small contractors can protect their teams by using thermal comfort to determine a sensible working temperature for their employees. The HSE defines thermal comfort as a process where the workers regulate when it is too hot to work and how it affects their state of mind. Workers should also take care of their health and safety and others who may be affected by their actions at work. When people get uncomfortable because they're working in the heat, it may affect their capacity for decision-making or manual tasks.

John Rowe, HSE's Acting Head of Operational Strategy, said: "When a heatwave warning is in place, it's vital employers are aware of their responsibility to ensure their indoor workplaces are at a reasonable temperature. All workers have a right to a safe working environment, and their employers should discuss working arrangements with them."

Working in hot weather: How can small contractors help those working outside?   

The HSE provides the following guidance for those who work outside during the hot weather:   

  • Reschedule work to cooler times of the day if possible
  • Take more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
  • Provide free access to cool drinking water
  • Introduce shading in areas where individuals are working   
  • Encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss   
  • Educate all workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

Working in the sun   

Everyone is aware of the dangers of too much sunlight damaging the skin resulting in sunburn, blistering, skin ageing, and an increased risk of skin cancer in the longer term. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK, with over 50,000 new cases each year.     

Working in construction often involves prolonged periods of working outside, exposing the skin to the sun for an unhealthy length of time. The HSE provides the following advice:   

  • Wear a high-factor sunscreen of at least SPF50 on exposed skin
  • Those with fair, freckled skin with many moles should wear extra protection.

What if an employee has concerns about working in the heat?   

Firstly, they should raise the issue with their manager. Employers should carry out a risk assessment if many employees complain about thermal comfort. There is no maximum temperature rule because workplaces with hot processes such as bakeries or foundries would not be able to comply with regulations. They use other measures to control the effects of temperature. Small builders should also use such measures to manage the risk of working outdoors in a hot environment.

For further information regarding the HSE's thermal comfort, the HSE has provided an easy-to-use checklist:


Trade Direct is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The company is a leading UK independent broker providing a wide range of policies to tradesmen and construction workers.

This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such or regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. In preparing this note we have relied on information sourced from third parties and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act, without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to fullest extent permitted by law.

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