The heat is on – can I go home now please?

Thursday 25 July 2013

This is the burning question being asked of me by employees and employers alike nearly every day: is there a maximum temperature beyond which staff should not be expected to work?

The short answer is no – there is a minimum temperature but not a maximum.

However, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that, during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be "reasonable".  As ever what is considered reasonable is not set out in any detail and will be specific to individual workplaces.

As I leave for my week’s holiday the Met Office has issued a Level 3 health weather warning because of the sustained period of hot weather.

In response to MPs’ calls for maximum working temperature guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says there is "more to it than just room temperature". Environmental factors, such as humidity and sources of heat in the workplace, combine with personal factors, such as clothing and how physically demanding the work is, to influence what is called your "thermal comfort".

The HSE has previously stated that "an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F)...", but it has since adopted advice that encourages employers to carry out a risk assessment that begins by assessing the proportion of employees who are complaining about the temperature.

Perhaps you can look at your company’s hours of work and perhaps stagger them?  Consider giving the option for some employees to start earlier, perhaps at 6am when it is cooler and others starting later could be one answer.  For the office based team members offering the option to work from home is worth considering.  

Providing fans, portable air conditioning units, having a good supply of chilled bottled water available and allowing more regular short breaks are all steps that employers can take in this unexpected heat wave to look after the teams who are looking after the business.

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