Employers urged to take measures as temperatures soar

Barry Warne

With a series of heatwaves forecast, an employment law specialist is urging employers to take steps to prevent their staff becoming dehydrated and ill. 

Although there is currently no statutory minimum or maximum workplace temperature, there is a recommended minimum. Guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) set a minimum of 16C – but it can be as low as 13C if the work is particularly strenuous.

Barry Warne, head of employment at Keebles, stresses that employers are responsible for providing a safe environment for their people at all times – and in all weathers. He also says they are legally required to provide staff with a ‘reasonable’ temperature at work along with access to thermometers so they can check the air temperature.

Barry said: “Workplace regulations say companies should make a ‘suitable assessment’ of the health and safety risks posed to staff in their working environment and take action ‘where necessary and where reasonably practicable’.

“The ‘necessary’ action will vary according to the nature of the business and will include making decisions which could include sending people home if safe working cannot be arranged.”

Companies need to take measures which include ensuring staff have access to suitable and sufficient washing facilities and providing breaks, drinking water along with proper ventilation. If employees’ duties include working outdoors, businesses should take steps to prevent dehydration and sunstroke.

Although a standard temperature for when it becomes too hot to work has not been set, employers are expected to take the initiative to prevent a backlash from staff which can include leaving an unsafe place of work or even claiming constructive dismissal.

Barry added: “It is vital that employers do not subject their staff to unbearable working conditions. I recall a case where an employer was successfully sued for failing to keep the premises warm enough.

“The same scenario could happen if the workplace were unbearably hot. Offering ice creams is not obligatory – but would go a long way towards engendering goodwill.”

 

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