Employers’ duties in summer heat

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has advised employers to protect workers during periods of extreme hot weather this summer. HSE’s message to employers was prompted by the first yellow heat-health alert of the year issued by the UK Health Security Agency and Met Office.

The Law

Regulation 7 of The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that “the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable”. There is no legal limit in the UK as to the temperature level, there is however an Approved Code of Practice issued by the HSE which focuses on providing “reasonable comfort” to which end, it suggests a limit on minimum workplace temperatures of 16 degrees (relevant to most office environments) but no maximum temperature.

HSE suggestions

The HSE provided simple and cheap measures that employers can take such as:

  • Relaxing dress codes if possible;
  • Altering working patterns so workers can work at cooler times of the day;
  • Checking to ensure appropriate blinds/reflectors are in place to protect staff and windows can be used to manage the circulation/buildup of warm air
  • Free access to drinking water;
  • Sharing information about the symptoms of heat stress and what to do if someone is affected; and
  • Providing weather-appropriate personal protective equipment.

Comment

By law, employers have a duty to ensure the welfare of their workforce and must assess the risks to the health and safety of their workers, including risks from extreme weather such as snow, heat waves etc. When considering the current warm weather, whilst there is no legal maximum temperature for workplaces at which work might otherwise be stopped, employers are still under a duty to act responsibly and protect those working inside and outside during extreme heat in the summer and should take appropriate steps and measures to do so.

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