The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is calling for employers to protect workers during periods of extreme hot weather this summer
Record-high temperatures seen in Great Britain last summer should prompt employers to take action to protect those working both inside and outside in extreme heat, according to the HSE.
Although there is no legal maximum temperature for workplaces, employers must assess risks to the health and safety of their workers by law, including risks from extreme weather such as heat waves.
Heat is classed as a hazard affecting people working indoors and outdoors and should be treated like other hazards.
HSE is asking employers to discuss with workers changes to manage the risk.
Some of the “simple and cheap” measures the HSE is asking employers to consider for managing heat risks include:
- Ensuring workplace windows can be opened or closed to prevent hot air from circulating or building up;
- Using blinds or reflective film on workplace windows to shade workers from the sun;
- Placing workstations away from direct sunlight and heat sources;
- Putting insulation around hot pipes and machinery;
- Offering flexible working patterns so workers can work at cooler times of the day;
- Providing free access to drinking water;
- Relaxing dress codes if possible;
- Providing weather-appropriate personal protective equipment;
- Encouraging workers to remove personal protective equipment when resting (ideally in shaded areas) to cool off;
- Sharing information about the symptoms of heat stress and what to do if someone is suffering from it.
Nottingham-based engineering firm CNTL found that measures that helped staff included replacing light bulbs with LEDs, which give off less heat, and changing working hours.
HSE’s head of operational strategy, John Rowe, said: “Last summer should have been a wakeup call for all employers. Climate change means we’re likely to get hotter summers and that could have a big impact on the workforce of this country, affecting everything from health of workers to productivity on construction sites.
“We know all employers are under pressure and we don’t want to add to their burden, but it’s vital they think hard now about simple and cheap measures they can put in place to support workers should we see extreme heat again this summer.
“The extreme heat we experienced in 2022 isn’t going away so sensible, supportive employers will be planning now how they should respond.”
Last summer, HSE saw a surge in people seeking advice. Visits to its online hot weather working guidance increased by nearly 1,000% and the number of concerns relating to hot weather reported to HSE almost doubled in July, when temperatures exceeded 40°C for the first time.