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Heat wave and the workplace environment

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A red warning of extreme heat is now in place in much of London, the south-east and parts of northern England, while an amber warning has been extended to Wales, southern Scotland, and the rest of England.

This is the first time that the Met Office has introduced such a red warning for heat since the system was introduced last year.

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How hot an environment feels are affected not just by air temperature, but also humidity and movement of the air.

To establish if the temperature is comfortable, employers should consider how many employees are saying they’re uncomfortable. Employers are liable to issue compensation to employees if they are dismissed for raising health and safety issues, meaning that they should think before instigating disciplinary action against anyone who raises concerns about unsafe temperatures, or refuses to return to a workplace that is too hot.

Employers have a duty of care to employees, and safe temperatures will vary across workplaces. As a proactive step please ensure that detailed risk assessments are carried out so that vulnerable workers can be protected.

In some workplaces there may be equipment that produces even more heat, for example ovens, machinery, or tools, which must also be taken into consideration

What should employers focus on now?

If an employee is a victim of heat exhaustion, they should move to the shade, lie down and raise their legs slightly while being sprayed with cool water, making sure to stay hydrated. This is essential to avoid heatstroke, which can lead to serious complications.

Anyone who feels like they’re overheating must be told to stop what they’re doing and take measures to cool down.

For workplaces without air conditioning, fans should be distributed, and employers should make use of natural light from windows instead of using overhead lighting that can emit a lot of heat. If using air conditioning, ensure that windows remain closed when it is on to increase the fridge-like effect.

For manual and outdoor workers, allowing regular breaks, changing shift times, reviewing PPE and workwear, providing training on heat stress, and monitoring health are all encouraged and finally it may be a good idea for office and retail workers to have a relaxed dress code.

Are you making staff safety the top priority as temperatures reach record levels?


Some businesses we have worked with