Temperatures are set to rise again at the end of the month. Whilst there’s currently no legal maximum temperature for workplaces, the HSE advises that staff should work in ‘reasonable’ temperatures. Here’s our advice on how to support your staff during hot weather.
What does the law advise?
Temperatures in the indoor workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which place a legal obligation on employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature. The HSE advises that employers must stick to the health and safety at work law, which includes:
- Maintaining the temperature at a comfortable level
- Providing clean and fresh air
However, during the recent heatwave, groups including the TUC called on the government to introduce a maximum working temperature of 30ºC and 27ºC for those undertaking strenuous activities. Therefore, employees cannot currently leave a workplace due to the heat unless they are sick.
What should employers do to support staff during hot weather?
Aside from the obvious actions employers can take to make the workplace cooler with ventilation or aircon, they can also:
- Risk assessment. The HSE recommends conducting a risk assessment and taking action where and when reasonably practical. This is required under Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. According to the HSE, “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 the representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.”
- Allow flexible working or working from home. Employers could stagger working hours so that staff are not travelling to and from work during the hottest times, or allow more working from home if the environment is more conducive to work. This is also relevant where extreme heat could impact transport services.
- Relax dress codes. An informal dress code will allow staff to dress appropriately for the weather, including shorts for men for example.
- Provide fans for desk-based staff. A simple and cost-effective way to keep staff cool.
- Ensure drinking water is available throughout the day.
- Be mindful of vulnerable employees whose health may be impacted by the heat and make reasonable adjustments. Read the Gov guidance on supporting vulnerable people during extreme weather conditions.
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