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How To Stay Safe On-Site During A Heatwave

Tradespeople on-site during a heatwave wearing hi-vis

The sun has finally appeared in the UK – and while a heatwave is a joy for some, it’s a nightmare for others. 

We’re set to have one of the hottest weeks of the year so far, with the met office issuing a warning with temperatures set to hit up to 40°C in some areas of the UK. (Source: Met Office) All of which means it’ll take more than an ice cream or two to keep safe.

A heatwave will make things uncomfortable, whether working in an office, shop or car. However, it’s tradespeople who are at a significantly higher risk – a physically demanding job, often undertaken outdoors in direct sun, is a recipe for disaster if you don’t look after yourself.

Without taking the appropriate precautions, sunburn, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion are real possibilities, so looking after yourself during a heatwave is essential.

Stay Hydrated

In hot weather, you’ll sweat more to keep cool. You need to replenish that moisture regularly, so drink up! Water is the best option, and the NHS recommends 6-8 glasses of water per day as a standard, so when the temperature rises, sip a little more.

Reports claim that when you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated (Source: Medical Xpress). So, don’t wait until you feel thirsty to grab a drink; stay one step ahead.

And if you’re out and about and want a cool drink, take Keell Electrical’s advice and freeze your water overnight.

Avoid Dehydrating Liquids

We all like an ice-cold beer when the sun’s out, but alcohol dehydrates your body, putting you at more risk. 

So, if you do drink alcohol, be careful, stay hydrated and avoid sitting out in direct sunlight.

Layer up the SPF

SPF protects your skin from UVB rays, helping you to avoid sunburn and skin damage. SPF between 30 and 50 offers good sunburn protection (Source: EWG) when applied correctly and frequently.

Apply sunscreen before getting dressed to ensure you get full coverage and don’t forget to reapply regularly!

Eat Fresh & Hydrating Foods

We all know drinking water will keep us hydrated in the heat, but food can also help. So, make sure you add fruits such as cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, and vegetables like celery and lettuce to your diet this summer.

Nicola opts for fruit, veggies and sandwiches over hot food to help keep cool – and who wants to cook in a heatwave anyway?

Keep Covered

You may think the fewer layers, the better when it comes to clothing and keeping cool, but in reality, wearing lightweight and moisture-wicking layers is best. It’ll stop the sun from reaching your skin, keep you cooler and prevent UV rays from getting through. 

Of course, hats and sunglasses are also a must!

Slow The Pace

While it can be tempting to work quickly to get the job done sooner, it’s risky. It’ll mean taking fewer breaks and increased dehydration, which could increase the risk of heat exhaustion. 

So, slow the pace, and take regular breaks to ensure you have time to eat, drink and sit in the shade.

Regular Breaks

You should take breaks at work, whatever the weather, but it’s more important than during a heatwave. 

Step away from your desk regularly when in the office, whether to grab a drink or stretch your legs. If you’re working outside, ensure you have somewhere to take five in the shade with plenty of airflow.

Avoid Direct Sun

While many of us love to lounge in the sun, it’s a different story when we have to work in it. So, if you can, avoid strenuous activity in the direct sun. 

A great tip from David, a carpenter, based in Lancashire, is to use a gazebo if you can. It’ll keep you out of the direct sun and in the shade, making work much more bearable! 

Reschedule Jobs

If you’re lucky enough to control your diary, it’s time to get organised and reschedule when the temperature rises. Working outside all day or in lofts is a recipe for disaster and best avoided where possible. 

If you’re an office worker, see if you can start work earlier to get more done during cooler hours. Alternatively, work from home, where you’ll be more comfortable.

Avoid Working Outside In Peak Hours

Temperatures will be at their highest between 11 am and 3 pm, so if possible, avoid being outside during those hours. So, keep outside work to the early morning or evenings to keep yourself safe.

As Bourton Handyman says, plan your working day around where the sun will be and avoid it where possible.

Close The Curtains & Windows

It may sound counterintuitive, as you’d think the open windows would cool your house, but direct sunlight and warm air coming into your property will only make it warmer. 

Dr Agostinho Sousa, Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at UKHSA, recommends covering windows exposed to direct sunlight.

Keeping the windows and curtains shut keeps warm air out. Then, open the windows and air the house/office out when it’s cooler in the evening. 

Keep The Air Flowing

When the temperature rises, so do searches for “when is it too hot to work?” but sadly, there is no law in which work becomes a no-go based on temperature. However, under the Workplace Regulations of 1992, the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that employers must keep the temperature comfortable and provide clean and fresh air.

While we did just recommend keeping your windows closed, sometimes you need a breeze to be comfortable. Ensure adequate airflow around the room/building if you’re indoors. Open a window or door at either end of the room or property to let the air flow through. 

In addition, an aircon unit is excellent, but desk fans can also help you keep cool and encourage airflow.

Unplug Non-Essentials

You’ll want to stay as cool as possible during warm weather, and even something as small as your phone charger generates heat. Unplug anything you’re not using to keep the room temperature cooler.

Protect Your Vehicle

Sometimes, the only place to take five is in your van. But as we all know, vans can be less than comfortable during a heatwave, often feeling hotter inside than outside.

If you can do so safely, park your van in a shady area to avoid direct sun. If you can’t or want to keep your van even cooler, invest in a windscreen cover. And, a bonus is that you can use it in the winter to protect your windscreen from snow and frost!

Staying Cool In Warm Weather

Whether you like the hot weather or not, you must protect yourself and those around you from sunburn, heat stroke and heat exhaustion. 

If you begin to feel light-headed or dizzy at any point, stop working. There’s no shame in putting your health and well-being first.

And for those who aren’t enjoying the heatwave, don’t worry; we’re sure the UK will return to its usual cold and grey self in no time!

All data correct at time of publication.