The UK is currently experiencing a heatwave, summer is here at last, and once again we are being asked about what employers must do for their employees working in high temperatures. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, make no reference to a maximum temperature, it is down to a risk assessment. However, there are some key issues that employers need to be mindful of in order to maintain employee safety and wellbeing, whether your staff are based indoors or outdoors.
- Keep workplace temperatures ‘reasonable’. Consider humidity and the effectiveness of opening / closing windows, use of air conditioning and provision of fans etc.
- Use window blinds (where available) to cut down the effects of the sun.
- Ensure that radiators can be turned off and any hot plant/pipes are insulated.
- Consider repositioning workstations away from hot plant or out of direct sunlight.
- Identify any workers who may be especially susceptible to heat stress, or who have allergies, and take suitable preventive action.
- Consider relaxing dress codes to ensure workers can keep cool and comfortable.
- Consider flexible working patterns.
- Encourage workers to keep hydrated and advise them to drink water rather than fizzy drinks, tea or coffee.
- Ensure that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) accounts for hot working conditions.
- Provide advice / guidance to help protect outdoor workers from the effects of sun / heat. (See HSE Guide ‘ Keep Your Top On’ https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/indg147.pdf )
- Encourage workers to take breaks in the shade if possible and keep hydrated.
- Provide guidance for workers to check their skin regularly for any damage or changes to spots or moles and wear high factor sunscreen (at least factor 15).
- Consider rescheduling the work period to minimise exposure to the sun.
- Where appropriate use manual handling aids to reduce the effort expended.
- Risk assessments help employers identify hazards and problems, who is at risk and whether further precautions are needed. In this regard, the following factors should be taken into account:- The effect of air temperature / humidity and air movement.
– The effect of working near a heat source.
– The work rate – the harder a person works, the more body heat is generated.
– Suitable clothing and PPE.
– The amount / scheduling of break periods.
Finally, if workers are bringing food into the work environment, take measures to ensure that it is kept fresh and edible to prevent possible health issues resulting in lost time etc.
Addressing the above issues should result in enhanced safety for employees, better productivity, fewer absences and happier workers.
If you have any queries on this matter, or require any other HR or Employment Law advice, please do not hesitate to contact one of our HR or H&S Consultants on 01942 727200.