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19th August 2021

Heatwave Working

When is it too hot to work?

Having endured one heatwave already this summer, meteorologists are predicting another bout of extreme temperatures towards the end of August and the beginning of September. 

Employers should be aware of these rising temperatures and take measures to ensure that employees are working in as comfortable conditions as possible. 

Is there a maximum workplace temperature?

There is no defined maximum or minimum workplace temperature by law, however, it is widely recognised that temperatures for working conditions should be at least 16°C, or 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort. 

No meaningful maximum temperature is given due to the fact that certain trade environments will achieve significant high temperatures such as glass production or foundries. 

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

The application of this in practice depends entirely on the workplace as different temperatures would be expected/required in certain scenarios such as a refrigerated warehouse or a bakery. 

So what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ temperature?

A reasonable workplace temperature depends on a number of factors including the nature of the work being conducted and environmental factors surrounding the workplace. 

The Health & Safety Executive has produced a thermal comfort checklist to assist employers, taking into account various factors which affect a person’s thermal comfort. 

Thermal comfort risk assessment

If the results of this check are concerning, you should conduct a thermal comfort risk assessment, taking into account relevant control measures to minimise the risk. Measures would include:

  • Controlling the environment (use air conditioning, increase air movement etc.)
  • Control the task (restrict the length of time on particular tasks, introduce mechanical aids if possible)
  • Control the clothing (ensure only appropriate PPE is being worn, evaluate uniforms, evaluate dress code etc.)
  • Allow behavioural adaptations (allowing breaks in cooler spaces, provide fans)
  • Monitor employees (provide appropriate supervision and training)

Working outdoors

Additional considerations may need to be taken for tasks that are conducted outdoors. Not only is thermal comfort a concern, but sun exposure to the skin should also be considered. 

Lighthouse have previously provided a blog on this topic which can be read here.

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