Too hot in the workplace?

Having experienced the warmest summer in recent history, and all the forecasts predicting more sunshine in the coming weeks, it is worth considering the following pointers for dealing with hot weather in the workplace.

Contrary to popular belief, the law does not set a maximum (or any minimum for that matter either) temperature in which it would be unlawful for an employee to work. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 provides only that an employer should provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in all indoor workplaces.

The HSE suggests that a workplace should normally be a minimum of 16 degrees Celsius (or 13 degrees Celsius if the work is physical) – but this is only a suggestion and not the law and a reasonable temperature for a workplace depends on work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also require employers to assess the risks to the health and safety of their employees and to take action where necessary and reasonably practicable.

If the workplace starts to get too hot, you might consider undertaking a risk assessment and consulting with employees to determine a reasonable workplace temperature in their particular circumstances.

It is difficult to please everyone; there will always be some members of staff who are too hot or too cold. Rather than ignoring staff complaints, steps can be taken to address these before they result in formal grievances. You can help ensure thermal comfort in warm conditions by:

Other things employers can do include:

  • provide suitable drinking water (this is a legal requirement in all weather conditions)

  • open windows and ensure that every enclosed workplace is ventilated by adequate fresh or purified air.

  • providing fans or air conditioning;

  • shade employees from direct sunlight;

  • relax formal dress codes; and

  • allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down

Always consider vulnerable workers

Employers should always be mindful of workers who are young, old, pregnant, on medication or observing Ramadan may be especially affected by the hot weather, and consider giving them more frequent rest breaks, provide fans or portable air cooling units.

For further guidance, visit the HSE website.

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