In many jobs “heat stress” is an issue all year round but during the hot summer months there may be an increased risk of heat stress for many other workers.
Heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. It can affect individuals in different ways, and some people are more susceptible to it than others.
Typical symptoms are:
There is no max temperature set by las when it is considered too hot to work.
However, employers have a responsibility to ensure that conditions are “reasonable”, by keeping the temperature at a comfortable level, sometimes known as “thermal comfort” and for providing clean and fresh air.
In addition as employers are required to make a suitable assessment of all risks to the health and safety and take the necessary action – this should include the temperature in a workplace. Any assessment should include considering the work rate; working climate; employee clothing and use of respiratory protective equipment. In preparing the assessment Employers should also consult with employees and their unions to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.
There are guidelines for minimum temperatures and Trade Unions have lobbied for corresponding maximum temperature guidelines to be set.
The Health and Safety Executive (the HSE) explains that a meaningful legally binding maximum temperature cannot be set because of the uniquely hot conditions present in certain roles e.g. glass works or foundries,” where it is still possible to work safely with appropriate controls. They also point out that there other issues of significance as well as air temperature – such as environmental factors (eg humidity and sources of heat in the workplace) which combine with personal factors (eg clothing) and work-related factors (eg the physically demanding nature of the work) to influence a worker’s thermal comfort.
The TUC has proposed that maximum temperatures be set at 30 °C or 27°C for people doing strenuous work. It emphases that this is an absolute maximum and that even if the temperature is slightly below that, employers should still attempt to reduce temperatures if they get above 24°C and workers feel uncomfortable.
In citing these figures they relied on recommendations from the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers for the optimum working temperatures which are as follows:
The TUC have suggested 8 steps that employers can take to help their staff in the hot weather –