Summer is here and at long last it is getting hot. Did you know that natural water losses from a body in warm weather can be a couple of pints per hour?
Top tips for managing heat in the workplace:
- offer a ready supply of cool water (free of charge) to avoid dehydration
- use blinds/screens to block direct sunlight on workstations and keep your workplace cool
- allow more frequent breaks
- use fans (where safety permits)
- check staff fridges and food storage areas are clean and cool to avoid food poisoning outbreaks
- agree change of working hours to cooler times (if the work permits)
- relax dress code/uniform code
- arrange working at home (if home is cooler)
The current basic rule about workplace temperature is that “the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”.
The 1999 guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) mentions 30°C as an upper limit for thermal comfort, but shift length and what you are doing are factors in deciding where the limit of reasonableness lies.
High temperatures often bring high tempers, and bullying and harassment claims can soar with the temperature.
Some people are calling in sick and heading for the beach. A newly acquired sun tan will be a great giveaway!
As long as the workplace is open and offering an appropriate working arrangement, there is no reason for you to pay staff who are on the beach unless they have booked leave.
If your work processes normally involve the generation of heat (or working in cold environments), then your risk assessments should deal explicitly with temperature issues.
Pregnant and disabled workers
Your risk assessments should also take account of pregnant women and disabled workers whose disabilities might impair their ability to control their own body temperature, or put them at unusual risk of damage through heat. You may need to make this assessment now if your workplace is not air conditioned.
Journey to and from work
The journey to work itself is just as hot and hazardous to those at particular risk, and you should find out how pregnant or disabled heat affected staff are travelling to work. Adjusting start and finish times may help if they want to do this.
For people working outside, topics like sunburn also become an issue, and the provision of shade (where practicable), hats, long sleeved uniforms and sunscreen should be considered.
Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060
- The Heat Is On! (pantheos.wordpress.com)