Today the UK has seen its hottest July day on record, with temperatures reaching a sweltering 36.9C at Heathrow in London.

36.7C was the previous record for July and the Met Office believes the UK could still break the all-time record of 38.5C later on today.  This means that 25th July 2019 could be the hottest day of the year ever recorded in the UK.

Scientists believe that climate change has increased the likelihood and severity of heatwaves and whilst these temperatures may be welcomed by those able to relax in the sun, such conditions can be thoroughly unpleasant for those expected to work and travel.

This guide investigates if there is a maximum temperature beyond which employees cannot work and what steps employers can take to help their employees during periods of hot weather.

1. Is there a maximum temperature for the workplace?

The Workplace Regulations 1992 do not stipulate a maximum workplace temperature.  Instead, the regulations state that the temperature inside workplaces should be ‘reasonable’.

2. What is a ‘reasonable’ temperature?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) state that a reasonable temperature for a workplace depends on the work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace. The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature (it does not mention a maximum temperature) in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius and if the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.

3. What steps can an employer take during a heat wave?

Clearly, how the effects of temperature are managed in the workplace will depend on a number of factors such as the type of work and whether this is undertaken indoors or outdoors.  Employers have a responsibility to make a suitable assessment of the risks and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.   For example, the following actions could be taken within an office environment;

  • providing fans
  • ensuring that windows can be opened
  • shading employees from direct sunlight with blinds
  • siting workstations away from direct sunlight
  • relaxing formal dress code
  • allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down
  • providing additional facilities, e.g. cold water dispensers
  • providing air-cooling via portable air-conditioning units

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail or would like more information, contact Ramshaw HR today.

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