It seems like summer has finally arrived and with this spell of unusually fine weather comes the time-honoured problem of working in high temperatures. Looking at the legislation, you may be surprised to learn that whilst a minimum temperature is referred to in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, no reference is made to a maximum temperature. 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.
- 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.
- Encourage workers to keep hydrated and advise them to drink water rather than 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.
- Encourage workers to take breaks in the shade if possible.
- Provide guidance for workers to check their skin regularly for any damage or changes to spots or moles.
- Consider rescheduling the work period to minimise exposure to the sun.
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.