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With the Met Office issuing its first “Red Extreme” heat warning for parts of the UK this week, the TUC is today (Monday) calling on bosses to make sure that any staff working outdoors are protected from the sun and the heat. 

Exceptional heat is expected to affect a large part of England this week, with temperatures likely in the high 30s C and in some places reaching 40C.  

The TUC says that workers like builders, postal workers and street cleaners who are outside for lengthy periods in high temperatures are at serious risk of sunstroke, heat stress and even skin cancer. 

And working in hot weather can also lead to dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, rashes, fainting, and – in the most extreme cases – loss of consciousness. 


Employers can work with their health and safety union reps to introduce the following measures to protect their staff who work outdoors when the temperatures rise: 

  • Avoiding outside tasks between 11am – 3pm when temperatures, and risks, are highest. 

  • Ensure that outdoor workers have sunscreen and are given advice on the need to protect themselves – available in other languages for migrant workers.  

  • Allow staff to take plenty of breaks and provide a supply of drinking water. 

  • Provide canopies or covering over open areas and shaded areas for breaks. 

  • Provide lightweight brimmed hats and make sure protective clothing is lightweight, long-sleeved and comfortable. 


The heat can also be dangerous for workers whose jobs involve driving, warns the TUC, as any driver suffering from fatigue is a risk to themselves and other people. 

Bosses should provide cars, cabs, vans or lorries with air conditioning. The TUC says vehicles used for long journeys should be temporarily taken out of use if they do not have air conditioning. 

The right to refuse  

Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 provides workers with the right to withdraw from and to refuse to return to a workplace that is unsafe. Workers are entitled to remain away from the workplace if – in their opinion – the prevailing circumstances represent a real risk of serious and imminent danger which they could not be expected to avert. 

The TUC says workers should seek advice from their union before using their rights under Section 44. 

TUC General Secretary  Frances O’Grady  said: “This week we will see temperatures soar. Without adequate protection outdoor workers could be in danger.  

“Bosses must ensure their staff are protected with regular breaks, lots of fluids, plenty of sunscreen and the right protective clothing for those working outdoors - or relaxed dress codes for those working in shops and offices. 

“Anyone worried about their working conditions should join a union, it’s the best way to stay safe at work and make sure your voice is heard.” 

Editors note

- The Red Extreme heat national severe weather warning will cover Monday and Tuesday (18th and 19th July) for parts of central, northern, eastern and south eastern England. For more information visit: 

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


TUC press office   
020 7467 1248  

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