The UK has recently been basking in very high temperatures. Whilst many enjoy the hot weather, there is no doubt that it makes working and commuting more difficult.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has called upon employers during periods of extremely hot weather.
At present, whilst there is a limit on the minimum acceptable temperature, there is no limit on the maximum temperature. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/3004) require employers to ensure that temperatures in all workplaces inside buildings are ‘reasonable’. This can be difficult for employers to gauge as there can be many factors influencing the temperature such as weather, location, equipment and the type of work being carried out.
During 2022, 38 MPs signed an early day motion requesting that the government impose a maximum acceptable temperature in the workplace. The government, however, has provided no indication that it intends to introduce such legislation.
Heat is classified as a hazard. Hazards, including extreme heat caused by heatwaves, must be considered by employers when assessing health and safety risks to their workers. Therefore, despite there being no legal limit for the maximum acceptable temperature in the workplace, the HSE is calling upon employers to protect workers from extreme heat.
The HSE promotes a number of simple and affordable measures that employers can take to help keep the workplace at a ‘reasonable’ temperature. These include altering working patterns so workers can work at cooler times of the day, relaxing dress codes, providing free access to drinking water and sharing information about the symptoms of heat stress and what to do if someone is affected. The HSE also advises placing workstations away from direct sunlight and heat sources, insulating hot pipes and machinery, and providing weather-appropriate personal protective equipment.
When assessing the impact of heat on workers, it is important to consider any workers who may fall into a vulnerable category, such as pregnant workers. They may need additional measures in place or even suspension on health and safety grounds until the heatwave passes and it is safe for them to return to work.
If you require any assistance or want to discuss any specific concerns regarding managing heat in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the employment team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find more of the latest legal updates here.