If, like us, you’re finding the workplace becoming a bit hot and stuffy, you may be asking the question ‘do I have to send staff home when it gets too hot?’. As it stands, the answer is no. There is no law regarding the maximum temperature for workplaces in the UK.
The onus on the temperature of the workplace rests solely with employers and the guidance we have is that temperatures must be reasonable. Clearly heat can be dangerous and so employers should be aware of their obligation to ensure a safe working environment for their employees which covers their health and welfare. Health and Safety requires that employers keep the workplace at a comfortable temperature and provide clean fresh air to their employees.
The TUC are campaigning for there to be a maximum temperature which would have a two tier approach:
- at 24 degrees or higher the employer must take steps to cool the office down and ensure it is comfortable
- at 30 degrees or higher, employers must send people home.
Obviously, there is a wide variety of working environments within the UK and it is not only ‘heat’ that determines whether a workplace is a comfortable. Other factors such as whether there is a breeze, individual clothing and personal factors and humidity all play a role.
The dangers of heat
We all know how difficult it is to try and work in a hot environment. The mind becomes foggy, tempers may flare and there is a big impact on productivity.
The heat can also cause serious health concerns for many, such as:
- delirium and confusion
- heat cramps
- high blood pressure
- heat stroke.
Some of the above could have serious and long lasting affects on individuals.
In extreme cases, heat can cause death. For example, the three soldiers who sadly lost their lives in 2013 on a military exercise across the Brecon Beacons owing, in part, to the prevailing temperatures.
Nothing in this article is intended to scaremonger; simply to remind people that whilst it is lovely to have the sun, consideration must be given to the temperature and working conditions of workers.
Some practical steps that you could consider include:
- allowing employees to dress down and lose their usual business attire
- ensure there is adequate ventilation and allowing fresh airflow
- providing (extra) fans
- allowing the office equipment to be rearranged to allow workers to work in the shade
- rescheduling challenging or physical tasks to a cooler part of the day
- encouraging all employees to keep hydrated. Cold drinks could be provided in the communal areas
- changing working patterns for example allowing people to start/finish slightly earlier or later to avoid working during the hottest part of the day and/or allowing more frequent breaks
- where people are working outside, provide advice on the use of sun cream and make this readily available. It would also be worth considering whether more lightweight protective wear could be utilised.
If you are receiving a number of complaints from staff regarding the temperature, it would be prudent to carry out a risk assessment and then act on the findings.
If you have any concerns or questions about the issues raised in this article, please do not hesitate to contact the team.
For further information, please visit the government website: Workplace temperatures.