Horizon Platforms Blog

The Risks of Working Outside in the Sun

As we move toward summer and warmer days are (hopefully) on the way for those of us in the UK, our health and safety experts wanted to highlight the importance of keeping safe when working in hot weather outdoors.

Outdoor working is a necessity for many industries, and it can be easy for workers to ignore the signs which could be putting their health at risk. Whilst the sun has its perks and can be pleasant to work in, in the right conditions, there are some considerations both employees and employers should have in order to reduce risks associated with the sun when working.

What are the Health Risks of Working in the Sun?

Skin Damage and Sunburn

The sun’s rays can wreak havoc on our skin, sometimes without us being aware. Even mild reddening after sun exposure is a sign of damage. Sunburns can blister and peel, leaving our skin vulnerable. Over time, continuous exposure can lead to premature ageing, leading to wrinkles earlier in life. You may not notice early enough that you have been exposed to sunburn so it’s wise to take breaks and consider preventative measures.

Skin Cancer

The most serious consequence of sun exposure is an increased risk of skin cancer. Fair-skinned individuals, who don’t tan easily, are particularly vulnerable. Skin cancer can develop silently, hidden beneath the surface until it manifests as a life-altering diagnosis. Regular self-checks are essential. If you notice any unusual moles or spots—changes in shape, size, colour, itching, or bleeding—seek medical attention promptly.

Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke

Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Outdoor workers, such as those working at height in construction, are particularly susceptible during hot summer months. The relentless sun bears down, draining energy and causing discomfort. Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer maintain its own temperature, leading to rapid rises in temperature (which can be over 40 degrees celsius), this can be classed as a form of hyperthermia. Similarly, heat exhaustion occurs when your body overheats, leading to heavy sweating and a rising pulse. Recovering from this on average takes 24-48 hours but this will depend on the severity of each case, at worst this could mean time you are unable to work.


Dehydration affects all staff, across all industries, whether they work indoors or outdoors. The sun’s heat can cause rapid fluid loss, leading to fatigue, dizziness and impaired concentration. When working in hot conditions, your body needs more water than usual so you should try to accommodate it when working. Employers should also take responsibility to ensure drinking water provisions are available on site for manual workers.

Eye Damage

The impact the sun has on our vision can be overlooked but is important to consider. UV rays are known to cause damage to our eyes, which is why looking directly at the sun is never recommended. Conditions like cataracts and photokeratitis (sunburn of the cornea) can result from prolonged sun exposure, showing how serious it can be to neglect your eyes when working.4

Engineer working at height in the sun on a cherry picker

How Can Workers Reduce Risks Associated With Working in the Sun?

There are a few key changes which can be made for those working outside during sunny weather to prevent the above listed risks. 

Firstly, workers should aim to wear hats and sunglasses, or safety glasses, with the appropriate level of UV protection to reduce eye-related health risks. It is recommended to wear wide-brimmed hats which cover not only your face but a lot of your neck also to shield the area from sunburn. Of course, if site and safety rules dictate hard hats should be worn, using appropriate hard hat neck protectors will help to protect your skin from the sun.

If employees are required to wear uniform they should be provided the appropriate clothing for all weather conditions. Most of your skin should be covered when working outside but you should pay attention to the fabrics of your clothing to avoid overheating. Cotton is a good choice for uniform materials as the fabric is breathable which allows your body temperature to regulate itself better. Linen is also good for summer clothing, although may not be as durable for a manual job.

It is recommended to use sunscreen when working outdoors and go for at least SPF30 sunscreen, for fairer skinned workers they may want to go for SPF50 for additional protection. On average, sunscreen should be applied every 2 hours if you are consistently outside, and more often if you have been exposed to water which may have washed the sun protection off. If you are not outdoors for prolonged periods, you may not need to apply as frequently. A recent study found a third of workers admitted to never wearing sunscreen, which highlights the importance of both employers and employees taking responsibility to reduce risk when working outside.

Employers should take care to offer workers regular breaks and access to shaded areas, so they have the opportunity to escape direct sunlight for periods of their shifts. Employees should also have access to drinking water and make sure to drink more than usual to avoid dehydration.

Who is Responsible for Safe Outdoor Working Practices?

Ultimately, employers hold responsibility for providing safe working practices for outdoor workers. Whilst there is no official law around how hot is too hot to work, there are rules which outline that workplaces should conduct risk assessments to ensure temperatures are safe and safeguard employee welfare from associated risks which come with working in extreme temperatures. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, states that business owners are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of everyone on their site. This includes any members of staff performing work either on or offsite. It’s recommended that businesses provide PPE for both hot and cold conditions, offer adequate drinking water and take precautions where needed, such as adding extra breaks and providing shaded areas from the sun.

At Horizon, we work hard to deliver the best powered access hire service and expertise, so people working at height can do so safely and effectively. Part of which means delivering industry leading MEWP operator and health and safety training. Contact our team today for reliable access platform hire and training courses delivered by a team with 96% high pass rate.