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The recent extended spell of hot weather has implications for health and safety practice throughout offices and workplaces in Leicestershire that employers need to be aware of and act on.

Legal advice from the Health & Safety Executive

With temperatures in July rising to unacceptable levels in some workplaces as Britain experienced record-breaking temperatures, it would be wise for employers to remind themselves of recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive.  Guidance on maintaining safe temperatures in the indoor workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. These regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace.

Furthermore, with a hot August also forecast, MPs have also voiced their concerns around employers’ duty of care to their employees, urging the government to introduce a maximum workplace temperature, particularly for workers involved in more physical tasks.

What should employers do?

Measures recommended by the environmental audit committee include encouraging employers to relax dress codes when temperatures rise, as well as allowing flexible working to avoid the hottest part of the day.

The committee’s report Heatwaves: adapting to climate change states that extreme temperature events in Europe are 10 times more likely now than at the start of the millennium. The report warns that this has a significant economic cost, saying: “The government should make businesses aware of the developing threat of heatwaves and the economic consequences. [It] should consult on introducing maximum workplace temperatures, especially for work that involves significant physical effort.”

The HSE’s Code of Practice for employers

According to the HSE’s Approved Code of Practice, a free copy of which can be downloaded from the website, the recommended minimum workplace temperatures should be at least 16°C (or 13°C if involving rigorous physical work). The highest acceptable temperature is not stated as some environments such as glass works will record higher temperatures that could be considered acceptable provided ‘appropriate controls’ are present. Other factors such as humidity and air velocity also have an impact as temperatures rise.

Carrying out a temperature risk assessment

According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers should assess any risks to the health and safety of employees such as extreme temperature and act to reduce risks where possible. It is recommended that employers consult with employees to introduce measures to manage high temperatures.

Suggestions include:

  • Controlling the environment e.g. Increasing ventilation, dehumidifying the atmosphere, and erecting barriers to insulate workers from a heat source
  • Controlling the task e.g. restricting the length of time that employees are exposed to hot conditions or reducing the amount of work employees are expected to do
  • Controlling the clothing e.g. if uniforms are worn, consider alternative designs or materials
  • Providing personal fans
  • Installing air conditioning
  • Allowing employees to adjust thermostats or open windows

The issue of temperature in the workplace is not just a health and safety issue, it also impacts on productivity. As an employer, it’s important that you know your legal obligations as well as HSE recommendations – and that you take action to ensure you are meeting those obligations.

Health & Safety specialists in Leicestershire

If you would like advice on employers’ responsibilities around health & safety in the workplace, accidents at work or employer’s liability, contact our experienced team of legal specialists today. With offices across Leicestershire, you can contact us to discuss an enquiry or make an appointment to pop in and see us at your local office by clicking on the links below: