Plea to protect workers during hot weather


An independent watchdog has urged companies to take responsibility ahead of potential heatwaves.

Graphic of high temprature and construction workers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said that all workers are at risk amid the UK’s high summer temperatures.

With the Met Office issuing a yellow heat-health alert this week, employers must make provisions for their staff to avoid health and safety hazards. 


Around 56,300 people died in England and Wales last year during the Summer’s five heat-periods, according to data from the Office of National Statistics

Long exposures to the sun during the day can lead to heat exhaustion and heatstroke

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: 

  • A headache. 
  • Dizziness and confusion. 
  • High temperature. 
  • Sickness. 
  • Cramps. 

Additionally, the NHS has recommended that people stay hydrated with cold drinks and avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm

However, this guidance conflicts with construction work that is scheduled to occur during the day. 


Even though project schedules will be affected, firms must follow the information published by public bodies to safeguard staff health and safety. 

While there is no legal maximum temperature for workplaces, heat is classed as a safety hazard. 

The HSE has proposed the following measures for employers: 

  • Making sure windows can be open. 
  • Using blinds or reflective film on workplace windows for shade. 
  • Offering flexible working patterns so workers can work at cooler times of the day.
  • Providing free access to drinking water. 
  • Providing weather appropriate PPE. 

Also, workers have the right to withdraw and refuse to return to an unsafe workplace under the Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, according to the Trade Union Congress (TUC)

Other legislation provides workers with protection from heat-related issues, according to law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, including: 

  • JCT Contracts 2016 entitles a contractor to an extension of time for relevant events, including exceptionally adverse weather conditions. 
  • NEC3 and NEC4 engineering and construction contracts entitle a contractor to an extension of time and financial relief for exceptionally adverse weather.

Lessons from last year 

HSE had received an upsurge of people asking for advice in Summer 2022, with hot weather-related concerns almost doubling in July. 

Contractors like Persimmon and Barratt found it was necessary to change work patterns to avoid extreme temperatures, reported Housing Today

Engineering firm CNTL has found precautions like changing light bulbs benefit worker safety. 

Dane Rawson, director of CNTL, said: “We moved to flexible hours to suit staff. Some went with 5 am to 1 pm. We also replaced our lightbulbs to LEDs, which give off a lot less heat.”

John Rowe, HSE’s head of operational strategy, said “We know all employers are under pressure and we don’t want to add to their burden but it’s vital they think hard now about simple and cheap measures they can put in place to support workers should we see extreme heat again this summer.”

If you found this article helpful, check out More than 2M construction workers off work with stress.

Get industry news in 5 minutes!

A daily email that makes industry news enjoyable. It’s completely free.