12 August 2022

Managing your self-build during a heatwave

By Self Build Zone

In the UK, we simply love to talk about the weather! Usually, we write articles to advise on laying foundations in bad weather, whether to pour concrete in the rain, managing flood risks on site etc. but the summer of 2022 has led us to talk about the recent hot spells we are all enduring and how best to manage your project during extreme temperatures.

Can it be too hot to work?

The legislation around working in hot weather as quite woolly, there’s no set maximum temperature for working outdoors in the UK, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require employers to provide a “reasonable” reasonable temperature for staff to work in and take action when necessary.

For working during a heatwave government guidelines (Health and Safety Work Act 1974) states that employers must provide their staff with a healthy, safe work environment – and during hot and dry conditions, this means controlling the risks that employees may face because of working in hot temperatures or exposure to the sun.

Employers are implored to use their discretion as it can be difficult to assess air temperature, since humidity, wind speed and clothing or PPE can all affect the temperature someone experiences. The HSE site defines that thermal comfort is between 13 and 30 degrees, and when more strenuous work is required, these temperatures should fall on the lower end of the spectrum.

What measures need to be put in place on a building site?

The main contractor needs to take regular risk assessments to ensure that staff working in hot temperatures, or those who are exposed to the sun throughout the day, are protected against heatstroke, sunburn, heat rash and dehydration.

Health & Safety Executive recommends that employers should:

· Include sun protection advice in routine health and safety training;

· Encourage workers to keep covered up with long-sleeved shirt and a hat with a brim or flap that protects the ears and neck;

· Encourage workers to use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 on any exposed skin;

· Site water points and rest areas in the shade to encourage hydration;

· Schedule work to minimise exposure to heat and sun, so far as reasonably practicable; by adapting schedules and

· Encourage workers to check regularly for any unusual skin spots, moles or discolouration that may require medical attention.

Manual labour in hot weather affects different people in different ways. Ensure your staff take regular breaks and keep hydrated, there should always be plenty of fresh water available, and advice on wearing sunscreen should form part of the ‘toolbox’ including maintaining standard H&S standards – so don’t fooled into thinking it’s ok to remove your hard hat or PPE.

Don’t get prosecuted

Employers can be prosecuted for breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. Don’t let it get that far. By taking relatively simple steps you can safely maintain work on your site despite the higher temperatures. Always remember the potential for serious harm to your site staff either directly through the effects of heat, or indirectly through accidents caused by heat. Stay safe!

If you are building using subcontractors or direct labour, then technically you are the main contractor and you are deemed to be employing all of the people working on the site. Even if the subcontractors do carry professional insurance, the chances are that if they have an accident due to working in hot weather with no measures in place, they will see your insurance as the best option for recompense and if you haven’t got it, then you’ll be in trouble.

We can also review some of our specific product pages for in-depth information on the rest of our Self-Build Insurance website.




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