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Don't get hot under the collar: How to survive the heat at work

View profile for Victoria Schofield
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Whilst we have only had intermittent hot days this year, this week looks as if it’s going to be a scorcher! As our weather seems to change on a daily basis many will welcome this mini heat wave with open arms.  It’s important to remember the impact that the heat could have in the workplace.  Employers need to take care over advice on what to wear when the weather gets hot and not to discriminate between male and female employees.

The Risks

When temperatures soar, many employees experience reduced concentration, and could place both themselves and those around them at risk. Employees can suffer from dizziness, fainting, or heat cramps, and in the most severe cases there is even risk of heat stroke or collapse.

Workplaces where protective gear and uniform are necessary, could experience further complications where employees may be tempted to negate the health and safety precautions, or fail to comply with uniform requirements due to the discomfort experienced in high temperatures.

Employer’s Obligations

Despite the detrimental impacts of an unsafe working environment, there is no legally enforced temperature for workers, however, conditions must be kept ‘reasonable’ as set out by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations. Here are some things to consider:

The temperature inside the workplace should be reasonable, with excessive effects of sunlight on temperature being actively avoided where possible;

any cooling methods implemented should not result in the escape of fumes, gas or vapour which may cause harm to employees;

a sufficient number of thermometers should be provided to enable employees to determine the temperature inside buildings;

the temperature should not be too drastic to allow for reasonable comfort, without the need for special clothing;

suitable rest facilities should be provided to employees, especially in circumstances where any cooling methods may have failed; and

it may be astute to implement systems such as task rotation to ensure that the amount of time that employees are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is kept to a minimum.

The need for employers to actively monitor, adapt and maintain their working environments is essential for both the well-being of their employees and thus, the productivity of the company. Though there a number of steps that can be taken, a positive and successful working environment is best achieved by adopting a flexible and understanding approach to working in the heat.

How to Respond

One of the most commonly employed methods is to relax the dress code, encouraging employee’s to ‘dress for the day’. This method enables employees to independently assess their working day and dress accordingly. Examples of this include short sleeve shirts for men during regular office days, but returning to blazers for formal meetings.

Additional, arguably more obvious, approaches implemented by employers include temperature regulation by maintaining an effective and responsive air conditioning system throughout the workplace, as well as actively encouraging hydration by providing ease of access to water. This can be further encouraged by the distribution of company water bottles and a high alert for the maintenance system when dealing with temperature requests.

What This Means for You

Ultimately, the effective management of employee well-being during high temperatures and beyond requires a strong understanding of the duty of care imposed on employers and the best working environment for each company.

Contact

If you require any further assistance with your business, or require any clarification on the above topics, you can contact our Employment Solicitor Victoria Schofield  on 0161 785 3500 at your earliest convenience.

 

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers LLP or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.