Managing staff in the hot weather does need to be difficult. As long as employers show understanding and compassion most employees won’t need to raise the issue with HR. However what can employees do if they are being forced to work like normal in these extreme temperatures?
At this point, there is no legal maximum temperature that employees can be made to work in. One reason for this is the variability of roles, for example workers at a blacksmiths or bakery would be regularly exposed to high temperatures. However employers must ensure the workplace remains safe and comfortable. The TUC Union wants there to be a requirement to stop work if indoor temperatures reach 30 degrees Celsius, or 27 degrees Celsius for those doing strenuous jobs.
Even without a legal maximum temperature, employees can still refuse to work if their workplace ‘poses a serious and imminent threat to their health’. (This is the same health and safety requirement cited when employees were fearful of returning to the workplace after the first Covid lockdown)
Employers have a duty of care to fully consider any concerns raised and make adjustments where necessary. On Friday 15th July The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) raised its heat health warning to Level 4 – a “national emergency“. The Met Office issued its first ever red warning (for heat) meaning “adverse health effects” may be experienced and will not be limited to “those most vulnerable to extreme heat”.
What can Employers do?
Managing staff in the hot weather can be made easier by considering some of the following:
- Supply fans or portable air-cooling units
- Close curtains/blinds
- Change dress code so shirt and jackets aren’t required, or allow shorts to be worn
- Make allowances for people to work from home if their journey to work may be effected by train cancellations
- Supply sun cream for outdoor workers
- Allow for regular water breaks
- Make extra adjustments for vulnerable workers such as the elderly or pregnant
- Look at schedules to use heat-producing equipment at the cooler points of the day
- Nice gestures such as supplying ice creams!
Companies may wish to review risk assessments and factor in how heat may impact people and processes. The HSE provides information around temperature-related issues here. Maybe the recent heat-wave has made you realise that you don’t have all the risk assessments you need. Contact me if you would like to discuss how I can support you with your risk assessments and general health and safety.