Associate solicitor Laura Binnie, in our Employment law team, offers a reminder of important health and safety laws as this summer's heatwave looks set to continue.
With soaring temperatures set to hit 38 degrees in London tomorrow, what should employers be aware of during this heatwave?
Employers need to take reasonable steps to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 deal with control of temperature and ventilation and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place an obligation on the employer to carry out a risk assessment of the workplace and act accordingly.
When individuals work in high temperatures, they can experience a loss of concentration, confusion, drowsiness and possible heat stroke. Consequently, employers have a duty to ensure that their employees can work in ‘reasonable’ workplace temperatures.
While the minimum temperature in a workplace should generally be at least 16 degrees celsius, there is no maximum temperature set by law when employees can complain it is simply too hot to work. However, the TUC has commented that when the temperature inside reaches 24 degrees, it could be time to act and staff should be sent home if measures to address the temperature do not help. In any event, employers should carry out a risk assessment in periods of very hot weather to assess the working environment and whether it can be safely worked in. Factors to take into account depend on the type of workplace too – e.g. a bakery will automatically be warmer than an office.
Reasonable steps must be taken to limit any risks posed to employees and employers may therefore wish to make changes to normal practices during hot weather even where they are under no obligation to do so. For example, in addition to the obvious air cooling units and keeping them maintained, businesses should consider:
- allowing a more relaxed dress code or uniform;
- additional breaks during working hours;
- providing desk top fans or similar equipment;
- shading windows and increasing ventilation;
- water should be freely available and accessible;
- bear in mind that age and weight can affect a person’s reaction to the heat.
Employers are also advised by the Health and Safety Executive to liaise closely with their employees.
For further information or legal advice, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0118 951 6800.
This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.