Britain is on the brink of the hottest summer in 350 years with temperature expected to continue to sore over the coming months and an amber “heat health watch” warning has been issued for parts of England.
The Met Office warned the “remarkable” temperatures across the UK are on course to last until at least late August with “very warm, hot or very hot” conditions likely for at least another five weeks.
It means Britain is officially on course for its hottest summer ever, with the record-breaking temperatures of 1976 – which is believed to be the hottest since at least the early 1600s – now very seriously under threat.
With this in mind we have produced a brief guideline on what the rules around temperatures in the workplace as per the Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992
What does the law say on employees’ rights in hot weather?
The regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.
However, while there is a minimum working temperature, there is no statutory upper limit.
Are there any minimum workplace temperatures?
The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16C.
If the work involves “rigorous physical effort”, the temperature should be at least 13C.
These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements – the employer has a duty to determine what “reasonable comfort will be” in the particular circumstances.
What about when it gets too hot in the workplace?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says a meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries.
No maximum working temperature – that doesn’t sound fair! Is anything being done to change that?
Two MPs are proposing that bosses should be legally forced to provide water, breaks or air conditioning to combat “uncomfortably high” workplace temperatures.
Labour’s Ian Mearns (Gateshead) and the SDLP’s Mark Durkan (Foyle) believe there is an anomaly in the law.
They say help to cool down should be offered to workers if temperatures soar above 30C (86F) or 27C (81F) if they do “strenuous” work.
They hope a statutory maximum working temperature would secure better working conditions for those in offices, schools, shops, bakeries, call centres and elsewhere – plus protect them from potential health problems.
Are there any other regulations that protect workers during hot weather?
In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a “suitable assessment” of the risks to the health and safety of their employees and take action “where necessary and where reasonably practicable”.
The Health and Safety Executive state “The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations.
“Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.”
Below are some top tips for Employers and Employees to protect yourselves in this heat
Ensure the workplaces is adequately ventilated so that they remove and dilute warm and humid air.
Frequent rest breaks should be permitted
Free access to cool drinking water should be available and the containers should be refilled at least daily
The TUC says: ‘An employer must provide a working environment which is, as far as is reasonably practical, safe and without risks to health. In addition, employers have to assess risks and introduce any necessary prevention or control measures
If people are working outdoors provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas. Also encourage the removal of PPE when resting to help encourage heat loss
Take regular breaks and drink lots of water
If the heat is unbearable and enough of your colleagues complain, your boss is legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment.
According to the TUC, the maximum temperature for a workplace is 30’C for desk work and 27’C for manual work. If your office exceeds that amount, you should be allowed to go home.
You should take particular care if you have fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans, red or fair hair and light coloured eyes, a number of moles.
We need to make the most of this weather,and remain sensible at all times and ensure we look after ourselves and take on board plenty of water, because in a couple of months time, when the autumn comes and the dark nights appear along with the wind, rain, sleet and snow, we will be complaining its to cold!!!!