Working outdoors in the heat – what temperature is too hot to work outside and what rights do you have as an employee?

BRITAIN is set for a sizzling summer as temperatures rocket across the UK.

But for some, working outside away from an air conditioned office could prove dangerous if it gets too hot. Here’s what you need to know…

While there’s no legal maximum temperature, employers have a duty under health and safety law to monitor working conditions

What temperature is too hot to work outside?

There isn’t a legally defined maximum or minimum temperature for outside or indoors working yet.

But employers are legally obligated to conduct risk assessments on workplaces to ensure that temperatures are “reasonable”.

In 2013, Army reservists Lance Corporal Roberts, Lance Corporal Maher and Corporal Dunsby all died as a result of heat exhaustion after a training session in the Brecon Beacons.

The HSE launched an investigation of the Ministry of Defence, and found that there had been a failure to plan, assess and manage risks associated with climatic illness during the training.

The exercise should have been called off hours before when temperatures reached record highs, they said.

The HSE were unable to prosecute the MoD because it’s a government body, but the case highlights the duty of care on the employer.

What rights do I have if it’s too hot?

Employers should ensure their workers have access to water and monitor the health of their employees in hot conditions, according to HSE guidelines.

If you have concerns that it’s too hot to do physical labour outside, do raise these with your employer.

The TUC wants to make it illegal to keep people at work indoors if the temperature is above 30C, and put protection in place for people working outside or driving for a living.

They also want to ensure outdoor workers have sunscreen and water and are given advice on the need to protect themselves from the heat and sun.

Brits should avoid excessive daytime drinking and wear light clothing to avoid heat stroke
Getty Images


What do I do if it is too hot working outside?

The Health and Safety Executive recommends employers:

  • reschedule work to cooler times of the day
  • provide 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 workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

And it says employees should:

  • Take particular care in the sun if you have: fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans, red or fair hair and light coloured eyes, a large number of moles
  • Manage your exposure to the sun by wearing high factor sunscreen, drinking lots of water and taking regular breaks in shaded areas.

The TUC says: “When the workplace gets too hot it is more than just an issue about comfort.

“If the temperature goes too high then it can become a health and safety issue. If people get too hot, they risk dizziness, fainting, or even heat cramps.

“In very hot conditions the body’s blood temperature rises. If the blood temperature rises above 39C, there is a risk of heat stroke or collapse. Delirium or confusion can occur above 41C.
“Blood temperatures at this level can prove fatal and even if a worker does recover, they may suffer irreparable organ damage.”

Here are some top tips for keeping cool, from making an ‘ice fan’ to avoiding big meals and choosing cotton.