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Working Safely During the Summer Heat

Working Safely During the Summer Heat

During this current period of hot weather there are many potential health and safety issues, and with that, many questions.

HSE have provided a list of answers to their most common questions:

1. What is the minimum/maximum temperature in the workplace?

The law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

  • 16°C or

  • 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort

A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. Factors other than air temperature, ie radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

These Regulations only apply to employees – they do not apply to members of the public, for example, with regard temperature complaints from customers in a shopping centre or cinema.

2. What is a reasonable working temperature?

A reasonable temperature for a workplace depends on work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace.

To find out if you have a reasonable workplace temperature you need to:

How hot does it have to be before I can complain?

If a significant number of employees are complaining about thermal discomfort, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment.

3. What instructions should I give staff wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)?

Where personal protective equipment (PPE) is required it can cause heat stress due to its weight and the fact that it prevents sweat evaporating from the skin. In these situations employers should:

  • permit work to occur at a slower rate

  • rotate staff out of this environment on a more frequent basis

  • allow longer recovery times before permitting re-entry

  • provide facilities for PPE to be dried so that it can be worn again for re-entry

  • consider scheduling work to cooler times of the days

  • periodically revisit your risk assessment to consider if the process could be automated or alternative systems of work/controls can be introduced

  • re-evaluate your PPE as newer PPE may be lighter and provide improved levels of protection and operator comfort

4. What do I do with employees who may have a hormonal imbalance (eg the menopause or employees with a thyroid imbalance)?

Applying the control measures described on in this guidance and on the HSE webpages should be sufficient to ensure the welfare of those affected. While there’s no requirement on employees to disclose conditions that may affect thermal comfort, if an employee chooses to do so then it may be that the temporary measures described in this guidance could manage their thermal comfort.

5. If our employees need to wear PPE, how can we improve their thermal comfort?

PPE is intended to protect employees from a risk to safety and health and should always be considered as a last resort. People can sometimes wear too much PPE so you should always look at the reasons for PPE.

For example:

  • Can your employees wear less PPE and still have the protection they require or may other controls reduce or eliminate the need for PPE?

  • Can the task be automated? Or can you adopt additional or more effective safeguards?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) at work: A brief guide provides advice on selecting the most appropriate PPE for your workplace.

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