BURNING ISSUE Can you refuse to work outside if it’s too hot? Rules and rights explained – The Sun

BURNING ISSUE Can you refuse to work outside if it’s too hot? Rules and rights explained – The Sun

June 10, 2021

PEOPLE working outdoors probably aren't loving the sunshine as much as those sunbathing and relaxing at the beach.

Brits are beginning to see the best of the summer sunshine with temperatures heating up to the late-20Cs.

It comes as Bris are set to bask in a 30C scorcher during the hottest weekend of the year so far.

But when is it too hot to work outside? We explain your rights.

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 "at a comfortable level".

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.

They should also make sure that the temperature is at a comfortable level to work, while also providing clean and fresh air.

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

The TUC have previously battled 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.


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."

Top tips for keeping cool include using a fan – but putting a bowl of ice in front of it to blow cooler air around the room.

Also, eat smaller portions for meals and eat foods like lettuce, celery and cucumber to help you hydrate.

It may be a nice and sunny, but blocking out the sun will help to keep indoors cooler, while wearing lightweight cotton along with white and cream colours to help reflect the sun's radiation.


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