The past decade has seen the UK experience extreme weather events, including heatwaves across the country, prompting hot weather warnings issued by the Met Office. With that comes advice on how employers and employees should protect themselves in the heat.
For office workers, it may seem that working outside is a great idea at the height of summer, but actually, many roofers find that the heat can bring with it a number of difficult challenges.
Health and safety
Temperatures for a roofer or contractor wearing heavy black work boots, a hard hat, long trousers and safety goggles in mid-summer can reach 120ºF.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has seen a dramatic rise in reports of fainting, dizziness and cramps from manual workers during the summer months and warns that for some, the heat also places a dangerous burden on lungs and hearts.
For many manual workers, the possibility of fainting or becoming dizzy at height is a severe health and safety issue and so procedures need to be put in place to deter this from happening. However, this is not the only health issue to worry about.
Have regular breaks, drink lots of water to rehydrate and rotate to jobs in shaded areas whenever possible – and don’t forget to apply sun-screen
If a person’s blood temperature rises above 39ºC, there is a risk of heat stroke or collapse, while delirium or confusion can occur above 41ºC. If blood temperature reaches this level it can prove fatal, and even if a worker does recover, they may suffer irreparable organ damage.
As far as is reasonably practical, an employer must provide a working environment which is safe and without risks to health and temperature should be included in this.
Currently, there is no legislation on maximum indoor working temperatures only minimum. However, the TUC recommend maximum safe indoor working temperatures as 27ºC for manual workers and 30ºC for sedentary workers but while office staff can open a window, controlling the environment for people working outdoors is more difficult.
To protect yourself while working outside, the NFRC suggests workers have regular breaks, drink lots of water to rehydrate and rotate to jobs in shaded areas whenever possible. Not forgetting the importance of applying sun cream regularly.
Employers should endeavour to protect their staff by providing free access to cool drinking water and shaded rest areas.
The ideal situation would be to start work earlier and finish before the temperatures reach their daily highs. Similarly, by working in the evening you can benefit from the lower temperatures and the increased light during the summer months, though this is not always practical.
While working in the heat for some may be an ideal situation, for others it’s not and this advice is aimed to help maintain productivity while protecting workers throughout the summer months.
The NFRC is actively supporting the HSE and is a member of the Health in Construction Leadership Group.