Too Hot (or Not) to Work?
Is it time to change the law when having to work in environments which are too hot?
This summer could end up being the hottest on record and while many workers are on holiday enjoying the sun, there are equally as many working in temperatures which are so hot that it can be detrimental to the individual’s productivity and lead to fatigue and low energy levels.
How hot is a too hot work environment?
While there is no set maximum limit, if temperatures rise too high, they can end up being a health and safety issue. Not only is it uncomfortable but working in too hot temperatures can cause dizziness and fainting and accidents can be heightened as a result of reduced concentration and tiredness.
Are maximum temperatures in the work place being looked at?
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has been asking for the law to change so that indoor work places cannot exceed a maximum temperature of 30°C (or 27°C for strenuous work), with employers forced to introduce cooling measures when the temperature hits 24°C.
Ultimately however, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has the power to change the situation by setting a legal maximum work temperature. They have already set a legal minimum work temperature.
Can employers do more?
The TUC has produced a guide to help employers and some simple actions can be taken including providing fans and installing air conditioning which can help provide a more pleasant work environment. Currently workers are encouraged to speak to their employer if they experience uncomfortable work temperatures. This is great if the employer is reasonable and open to offering solutions, but many employers are not, in addition, many workers may feel uncomfortable raising the issue. Currently employers are encouraged to carry out a risk assessment but as the HSE has not set any legal guidance, a risk assessment is a bit futile.
Has the HSE set any helpful guidance?
The HSE has provided six areas for employers to consider when thinking about safe working temperatures, these are;
Average rate of work
How can Lawson-West Solicitors help?
Sejal Patel, an Associate in the Employment Team suggests “Employers must follow the Health and Safety at Work Act which advises that during working hours, indoor workplaces must be at a reasonable and comfortable temperature and fresh, clean air must be provided. Staff who can work from home, should be offered the option to work at home, rather than travel to work in hot cars and transport. Alternatively, places of work offering air conditioning maybe the best option for an employee who suffers with heat fatigue.
It is essential to act in a sensible manner which would not cause your employees to become unwell or breach the implied duty imposed into all employment contracts, and to provide a safe working environment which is not faulty or broken which could then lead to possible disputes.
A caring employer is more likely to get the best out of their workforce and have more employees prepared to work hard than those who are unhappy and ultimately can lead to higher levels of absences. Lawson-West Solicitors is more than happy to help advise on the Health and Safety at Work Act and with offices in Market Harborough and Leicester.”
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