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Working safely in hot weather

Summers are often subject to dangerous heatwaves rolling across the country.

Working on a construction site can expose employee’s serious illnesses or even death. Those who are exposed to extreme temperatures may experience symptoms of heat-related illness (HRI), such as heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat stroke and other symptoms.

Working safely in hot weather


Fatigue is more than feeling a little tired – it can reduce mental and physical functioning, affecting judgement and concentration, slow reaction time, and lower motivation.

  • Avoid having workers in direct sunlight for long periods and make a shaded area available for breaks
  • Provide plenty of fluids and perhaps salty snacks to replenish sodium lost to sweat
  • Encourage use or provide wide-brim hard hats to protect workers from the sun

Heat-related illnesses (HRI)

Employers should be sure that workers are trained about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention – always monitoring workers for signs of illness. To minimise risks of workers developing heat stress, try to schedule work in the early morning or late in the evening when temperatures aren’t as bad.

Wherever possible, configure work in shaded areas, and use canopies or umbrellas to avoid direct sun exposures, even if only for intermittent protection.

  • Reduce physical demands in periods of high temperature and humidity levels
  • Rotate workers frequently for physically demanding tasks
  • Provide weather-appropriate PPE
  • Give rest periods in shaded areas
  • Provide and encourage use of hydrating fluids (water or sports drinks with electrolytes)
  • Train employees to recognise the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to take appropriate action
    • Heat cramps: Usually from poor hydration. Take it easy, drink water, put feet up
    • Heat exhaustion: Stop working, go someplace cool, rehydrate and rest
    • Heat stroke: Call emergency services

Strange behaviour may also be a sign of heat-related illness and it’s important to take some early precautions to intervene. Early symptoms include lethargy, disorientation, stumbling, dropping tools, slurred speech, or unresponsiveness.


Extreme heat and hard physical labour can increase the rate at which our bodies lose water, depleting our hydration levels and posing a health and safety risk.

Make sure hydrating fluids, particularly water, are readily available and that workers drink it regularly.

Sun exposure

Direct exposure to the sun and its intense UV rays poses its own hazard to workers. The main short-term effect from extended sun exposure is sunburn; long term, this can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Workers should keep exposed skin covered as much as possible, including the ears and back of the neck. Sun cream should be worn on any skin still exposed. Those with fair skin should be checked for unusual moles or spots on a regular basis.




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