Heatwave NewsA heatwave is expected any day now in the UK, with daytime temperatures expected to exceed 30 degrees celsius. As an employer, it’s important that you know what’s expected of you if the heatwave does materialise.

In times of cold weather, the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) suggest a minimum temperature of 16 degrees celsius (reducing to 13 degrees if the work is indoors and involves ‘severe physical effort’).

However, contrary to popular belief, there is not a suggested maximum temperature for places of work. When temperatures rise, the level of comfort for your staff is dependent on a variety of other things including humidity and air circulation. In short, during hot weather there is no one single factor that easily determines whether or not working conditions are reasonable.

What is expected of you as an employer during a heatwave?

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, place a legal obligation on you to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace, which is inherently open to interpretation. However, you can find out more about the specific effects of hot weather – such as dehydration and ‘heat stress’ on this section of the HSE website, with specific advice on heat stress contained in this free HSE Guide to Heat Stress.
If your staff work in direct sunlight, you should also consider looking at the HSE’s guide to Health Risks from working in the sun. If appropriate, sharing this information with your employees will at least demonstrate that you have gone some way towards warning them of the potential effects of the heatwave.
Although the law on safe temperatures in the workplace is not very prescriptive, you might also consider some other common-sense steps to help make the heatwave more manageable for your staff:
  • Check that temperatures are acceptable, and specifically ask staff to notify you if temperatures get too high
  • Ensure that staff have adequate access to drinking water and that those entitled to breaks are taking them
  • Consider temporarily relaxing your dress code, if appropriate for the duration of the heatwave
  • Remember that the heat will also affect other visitors to your office such as suppliers and customers, so ensure that they too remain comfortable
  • Don’t forget to ensure that all windows and doors are closed at the end of the day, and try to avoid leaving fire doors open, even during the day
Showing a bit of flexibility during the heatwave is not just about Health & Safety though – it will also help your business feel more ‘human’ and help build relationships with your employees.
Remember that we’re always happy to help you with any queries relating to Health & Safety and Employment Law, thanks to our partnership with Lighthouse Risk Services. To find out more, call us on 01943 876631 or contact us through the website.