The Met Office has issued a severe “heat wave warning” for the week, which has potentially serious implications for both employer and employee.
While generally there is no upper temperature limit applicable to the working environment, employers are strongly advised to take into account the legal requirement in that “all reasonably foreseeable hazards should be acted upon in order to ensure that no harm occurs to their employees”.
The Met Office warning should therefore be considered as reasonably foreseeable and should therefore be acted upon.
By simply following the advice given, you will be adhering to these requirements and further satisfying your duty of care.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q/. Is there an upper temperature limit applicable to the working environment?
A/. No, not unless the work process is the heat source (catering, manufacturing, etc.) in which case a suitable ventilation/exhaust system must be employed.
Q/. Is air conditioning a legal requirement?
A/. No. If you do not have air conditioning, open as many windows as possible to ensure adequate air flow throughout the working environment.
Q/. Can employees demand to leave work as a consequence of the envisaged heat wave?
A/. Generally no unless a relevant health issue affects the personal health, safety and welfare of the employee.
Q/. What are the relevant medical conditions?
A/. Asthma, diabetes, photo sensitive epilepsy, heavily pregnant women, angina and various other medical conditions that may be triggered by excessive climatic conditions.
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Send out an email or other communication advising all employees to drink adequate amounts of water to ensure hydration.
Advise employees to sit in the shade during rest/break periods.
If practicable, advise employees using public transport to stagger their journeys outside of rush hour period.
Walk on the shady side of the street.
Advise employees to avoid heavy exercise during the envisaged period, such as jogging and exercising in non-air conditioned gyms.
Instruct contractors working in confined spaces (mechanical and electrical) to take extra care and assess the risk to their health, safety and welfare whilst hot climatic conditions persist.
Especially in non-air conditioned environments, distribute additional fans to stimulate air flow/velocity.
Advise all outside workers such as gardeners/groundsmen to wear hats, apply sun block and especially stay hydrated and take extra breaks as required.
Use all window blinds.
Wear loose clothes.
WHAT SHOULD I AVOID?
Sitting in the sun during break/rest periods
Jogging in the open environment
Placing highly flammables in direct sunlight
WHAT ARE THE HAZARDS?
The Health & Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974
The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
Workplace (Health Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992
This advisory is not an exhaustive list of hazards nor control measures. Employers, employees and the self-employed should satisfy themselves that all reasonably foreseeable measures should be considered and actioned accordingly.
Notes to Editors:
Winter & Company offers specialist consultation on the full spectrum of health and safety issues affecting businesses and employees in the UK.
It is headed by Mitchell Winter TechSP (Technician Safety Practitioner) of The Institution of Occupational Safety & Health (IOSH).
For enquiries, pictures or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Mitchell Winter (TechSp)
Winter & Company Health & Safety