Next time you’re enjoying a welcome British heatwave, spare a thought for those at work. Whether it is white collar office work or outdoor manual labour, hot weather can have a huge impact on productivity. Not only does the heat slow you down, it can be physically harmful to work for long stretches.
Under the Workplace Regulations 1992, employers have a duty to maintain ‘reasonable’ working conditions. This wording is necessarily vague because these regulations cover all workplaces, including those with necessarily higher temperatures such as foundries and the rules must allow for flexibility. The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 also requires employers to undertake risk assessments when their employees’ health and safety might be in peril, and to take action ‘where necessary and where reasonably practicable’.
It’s also worth making sure that computer and electronic equipment is not at risk of overheating. There are also potential risks to equipment used outdoors when the temperature rises. A few simple steps can help combat those issues including:
For those working outside in the heat, it is no secret they are vulnerable to the sun. As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring the protection of those who work for you which could include ensuring adequate breaks, access to water and providing shade for breaks for the work itself if possible. Although there is no maximum temperature for working, employers should keep an eye on the thermometer. They should notify employees with warnings of impending hot weather, reminding them to use sunscreen and dress appropriately.
Even when such precautions are taken, some employees may still struggle in the heat. A risk assessment should be carried out to gauge the health and safety risks posed in such circumstances.
As ever, a little common sense goes a long way. Communicating openly with staff about working conditions, allowing ‘hot weather’ breaks and making sure the air conditioning in offices and vehicles is working will help to ensure that the hot weather doesn’t burn your organisation out.
Published date: 17th July 2017
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