Cool It! Managing workplace temperatures
How often have you heard managers say “It’s not our fault, we can’t control the weather!”?
Working in temperatures exceeding 24°C presents a serious risk to health.
It can lead to dehydration, tiredness, muscle cramps, rashes, heat stroke, fainting and, in extreme cases, loss of consciousness, especially for those working in strenuous jobs.
As average summer temperatures continue to rise, your employers must plan for hot weather and put in place measures to protect workers.
And when the working temperature climbs beyond 30°C, stop.
We are calling for a 27°C limit on strenuous work, and 30°C to be set as the absolute maximum working temperature.
How to keep workers cool
In the summer months, it’s vital your managers introduce measures to protect workers from high temperatures.
When indoor temperatures go above 24°C, action must be taken.
Fans and other mechanisms, including adequate ventilation and air filtration devices, should be used to help cool the air.
You should be allowed rest breaks, and your manager should reduce your workload, adjusting your shifts to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
Free, cool drinking water should be provided, and uniform policies and dress codes should be relaxed to help you stay cool.
When working outside, your employer should provide sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, to protect you from sunburn and complications from UVA radiation.
Women going through the menopause are doubly impacted by extremes in temperature, and employers must put reasonable adjustments in place to support them.
If your workplace becomes too hot, you can refuse to work.
Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 provides workers protection from disciplinary action if they withdraw from, or refuse to return to, a workplace that is unsafe.
However, always seek advice from your union before using these rights.
Around the world, measures have already been put in place to protect workers from high temperatures. The US, Spain and Germany all have set maximum temperatures, whilst China and the UAE ban outdoor work during the hottest parts of the day.
It is time for the UK to start protecting workers from rising summer temperatures.
It is time to introduce a maximum working temperature.