Hot Weather Working – What Are The Employers Responsibilities During A Heatwave?
In the UK there is no maximum temperature that a workplace is allowed to be, rather advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) states “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. What is reasonable depends on the type of work being done (manual, office, etc) and the type of workplace (kitchen, air conditioned office, etc).there’s no guidance for a maximum temperature limit.
Employers must stick to health and safety at work law, including:
- keeping the temperature at a comfortable level
- providing clean and fresh air
- But whatever thermometers read, if most people are complaining of the heat, common sense says that it is too hot and something must be done immediately. Remember that how we respond to heat can also depend on the weight and age of a person.
- You should also remember that air temperature is only a rough guide because humidity, wind speed, radiant heat sources, clothing, etc. all have an effect, which an ordinary thermometer will not take into account. It is possible to get a more accurate assessment using specialist equipment such as a wet bulb global thermometer or electronic equivalent, which measures humidity. The comfort range for humidity is between 40% and 70%.
Getting to work
Generally hot weather shouldn’t affect journeys to work, but occasionally in the UK there might be an impact on public transport if temperatures go over a certain level. Train companies may limit the speed of trains in case the tracks buckle which may result in the late arrival of your train. You should check with your local train company to see if speed restrictions are in place or cancellations are expected and advise your employees to plan accordingly.
Keeping cool in work
While employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures. If you have air conditioning switch it on, if you have blinds or curtains use them to block out sunlight and if your employees are working outside insist they wear appropriate clothing and use sun screen to protect from sunburn.
It is also important to drink plenty of water and employers must provide employees with suitable drinking water in the workplace. It is important to drink water regularly throughout the day.
The hot weather can make workers feel tired and less energetic especially for those who are young, older, pregnant or those on medication. Employers may wish to give these workers, more frequent rest breaks and ensure ventilation is adequate by providing fans, or portable air cooling units.
Dress code in the workplace during hot weather
Employers often have a dress code in the workplace for many reasons such as health and safety, or workers may be asked to wear a uniform to communicate a corporate image. A dress code can often be used to ensure workers are dressed appropriately.
While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow “dress down” days. This does not necessarily mean that shorts and flip flops are appropriate, rather employers may relax the rules to keep people comfortable