20 June, 2023
The month of June has had soaring temperatures UK-wide and has reignited some calls for legislation to be introduced to put a limit on workplace temperatures.
Whilst heat can cause significant consequences for some people, including dizziness, fainting, dehydration, heat stroke, tiredness, or even death, there is no specific limit on the maximum working temperature. That being said, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 requires employers to ensure that temperatures in all workplaces inside buildings are reasonable. Employers also have a duty of care for their employees, regardless of where they work, and workers are entitled to an environment where risks to health and safety are properly controlled.
There's no doubt that we are seeing more extreme weather temperatures more frequently and as this increases, it is likely to prompt the government to look and address the issue, potentially implementing legislation on this matter. There is however already a long list of other pieces of legislation, including employment legislation, awaiting to be addressed.
In the meantime, employers should be considering the impacts of hot temperatures on their workforce and their output, including ensuring managers are aware of symptoms of heatstroke and dehydration, identification of who may be more at risk of heat-related illness, including older workers or those experiencing the menopause, and that accidents may be more likely, for example due to employees struggling to concentrate. Where possible:
be flexible with working arrangements, including earlier or later starts and finishes to avoid the hottest hours of the day
provide areas not in direct sunlight
ensure water is available for workers
advise of any dress code/uniform modifications to make working more comfortable
provide air conditioning or fans
ensure workers take their mandatory breaks or increase the frequency of breaks
To answer the question in the title, there is no set temperature which is too hot for workers to work, however the duty of care to workers applies year-round and when faced with extreme temperatures, flexibility should be used where possible, to ensure the health and wellbeing of employees is protected, and the measures taken documented.
For more information contact Alice McKenna in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 01254 222373. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.
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