Many have noticed that our English summers are getting hotter each year with temperatures reaching up to 38℃ in some cases. With increased heat, there are inevitable dangers, especially for those who work outdoors. Even on overcast days, the sun can permeate clouds, causing burns and thermal discomfort. Hot weather may make workers sweat or feel the need to wear less, but these are not always the safest choices. Here’s some advice on PPE for hot weather: how to keep cool.
Many factors affect whether individuals feel too hot or cold besides air temperature. Heat can radiate from nearby objects such as pipes or machinery, and lack of air movement, incorrect ventilation, increased humidity, overly warm clothing, and rate of work can also make people feel much hotter than they would under other weather conditions. The World Health Organization reports that most workers feel uncomfortable in temperatures above 24℃, so when considering workplace safety, it’s important to note the outside temperature, and plan accordingly. Listen to your employees if they say they feel too hot or if they feel ill from the effects of the sun then modify the work if need be. Allow breaks and rest, and make sure everyone understands the risks of the sun, and the benefits of hydration.
PPE Regulations for Summer
PPE at Work Regulations require employers to consider work environment such as weather. All protective clothing should be provided and adequately protect the wearer against the elements.
Summer PPE should be designed to keep workers as cool as possible. Workers cannot simply wear the cheapest available option. All PPE needs to be provided by employers free of charge to employees.
Keeping Cool During Hot Months
Working hours should be adapted and altered to minimise sun and heat exposure.
Employers should consider shortening outside work during the hottest part of the day and providing shade. There should be frequent rest periods in a cool, shaded place, and cool, clean water should be provided to replenish the system.
Workers should be encouraged to remove PPE when they are not working in order to encourage heat loss, dry off sweat from equipment and clothing, and cool down.
If working on scaffolding, consider covering scaffolding sites to provide shade. Fans can be used where appropriate even in outdoor work.
Educate all workers on recognising the signs of heat stress.
What to Wear
- Safety Hats
- If you need a hard hat, make sure to cover your neck with loose UV resistant cloth to reduce the risk of burns.
- Place suncream on your neck and ears to protect from burns.
- If you are not wearing a hard hat, make sure you wear a wide brimmed hat or cap to cover your face from the sun and apply suncream.
- Wear long-sleeves when it’s possible (and not too hot) since long-sleeves provide the most sun protection, especially if the material is UV-protected.
- Fabric should be close-knit as burns can occur through fabric as well.
- Summer comes with pesky insects so long-sleeves will protect from bites and stings.
- Long pants may also protect from stings, cuts, and grazes as well as providing sun protection.
- Shorts may feel cooler, but come with other dangers; if you choose to wear shorts, lather up the suncream.
- Apply suncream every 2-3 hours.
- The Sun Protection Factor should be at least 15 to 30.
- Safety glasses with tinted lenses
- No matter how strong the sun is, it’s not good for one’s eyes to look into the sun.
- Make sure that you wear sunglasses or safety glasses with tinted lenses to protect your eyesight.
- Lighter colours
- Lighter coloured clothing offers better protection than darker clothing.
- Wear light clothes in cool, close-knit, UV protected fabrics where possible.
- There are summer options for hi-vis as well.
- Some fabrics have sweat wicking properties and UV protection like this hi-vis polo.
To recap, to keep cool limit sun exposure, take frequent breaks, drink lots of water, and pay attention to the type of clothing you’re wearing. It’s difficult to feel comfortable when you’re too hot, but overheating can cause the body to go into shock and experience heat stress and heat stroke, so educate all workers on how to recognise these signs and how to keep everyone safe and cool each summer.
How can I tell if my workplace is PPE compliant?
Want to know more about PPE and to make sure your workplace is PPE compliant? Download our FREE PPE compliance checklist now. Find out what PPE you need, how to store, maintain, clean, and replace it.