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Feeling hot hot hot! Managing hot temperatures at work

Seminar: 18th Jan, 2022

Join us for an insightful seminar on embracing the new world of work in 2022

Our expert FD People team will provide their insight and practical solutions to approaching new ways of working.

fan in an office

Working in hot weather is never ideal. But fortunately, there are measures that employers can take to mitigate the risks of hot temperature at work. There are no legal maximum temperature requirements for workplaces, but the law does require employers to ensure workers are comfortable and safe. So the temperature is something that employers must consider as part of their risk assessment.

Every business should have measures in place for when the temperature rises to uncomfortable levels, to ensure people’s health and safety isn’t put at risk. Employees should follow the controls in place and any information and advice they receive to help manage working in hot weather. If the situation calls for it, they can raise their concerns to let their employer know that more needs to be done to help them work comfortably and safely. 

Employers must carry out a risk assessment to help them determine what temperature is suitable for their work environment and to identify the necessary controls to achieve this. They should take into consideration the recommended temperatures and HSE guidance but should also assess a range of other factors to fully inform their risk assessment. What is suitable for one work environment may not be for another.

Factors such as the ambient temperature, humidity, airflow, radiant heat, sun exposure, worker clothing, and movement should all be considered. This will help them to determine what temperature is reasonably comfortable for their work environment, and what needs to be done to maintain it.

Many measures can be taken to manage hot temperature at work during a heatwave and employers should decide which are appropriate for their workplaces.

1. Moving people’s working areas to cooler locations.

For example, move desks that are in direct sunlight away from that area, or, for outdoor working, move certain tasks into a shaded area, where possible. The sun’s heating effects on indoor environments can also be addressed by orientating the building away from it (such as a temporary building on a construction site), or, where this is not possible, installing blinds or shutters on sun-facing windows.

2. Consider more flexible working

Accommodate flexible working hours so people can work earlier or later when temperatures are not as intense and the sun has moved away from directly heating the working area. 

3. Look at any equipment that is contributing to temperature levels.

Look at what is contributing to heat other than the weather and could be making it worse, to help reduce the overall ambient temperature. This could include moving machinery that emits heat to another area, for instance.

4. Providing air conditioning units where possible.

Portable air conditioning units can be leased/ purchased, though this may not always be reasonably practicable. Provide desk for room fans to improve air circulation and keep people cool at their workstations.

5.  Look at dress codes and personal protective equipment (PPE).

If office work usually means wearing a suit, employers could look at relaxing this rule in hot weather, allowing more informal wear such as no ties or no suit jackets to cope with the heat. For outdoor workers, they will need to think about whether PPE is necessary, such as hats, to protect them from the sun.

6. Providing refreshments and sufficient breaks.

By law, employees should have access to fresh drinking water and employers should ensure that people can take rest periods and breaks from work. This will be particularly important for outdoor work, to ensure workers can have a break away from direct sunlight in a comfortable environment.

Monitoring at-risk individuals

Some people may be more susceptible to heat than others. For example: people with certain illnesses, health conditions, on certain medication, or who are pregnant. Extra precautions may need to be taken for them, such as enabling them to carry out less strenuous work in hot weather.

Employers should share advice and tips for working in the heat, which are supported by their control measures. It is then down to the employee to ensure they follow the employer’s advice and tips.

Working from Home in the Heat

For those working from home on a temporary or permanent basis, the lines may appear to be blurred between who is responsible for what. However, it’s important to note that employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of all their employees, regardless of where they work. This means they should make the necessary arrangements to help employees who work from home maintain a comfortable temperature.

Measures they may take include many of those described above. Such as providing fans to help cool the employee’s working area and allowing flexible working, as well as providing guidance on how to stay cool. For example, ensuring staff know to keep curtains closed in sun-facing rooms, and encouraging them to take plenty of breaks to drink water and regain their concentration.

General tips for working in hot weather include:

  • Work in a cooler area, where possible. 
  • Drink plenty of water and/or cold drinks throughout the day to stay hydrated.
  • Take frequent breaks, in a cooler area if possible, to regain concentration and rest.
  • Keep blinds, shutters, and curtains closed on sun-facing windows.
  • Keep windows closed during the day to minimise hot air circulating. Instead, open them in the early and late hours of the day when it’s cooler.
  • Use desk or standing fans, which help the body cool itself down easier.
  • Wear light-coloured, loose clothing. Avoid dark colours and heavy fabrics, especially if working in direct sun. This is because dark colours absorb the heat whereas light colours reflect it.
  • Use ice packs and cold flannels to help keep cool. For example, sitting with an ice pack against both feet. Feet have lots of pulse points, so placing an ice pack there will enable a cool-down effect across the body. A cold flannel on the back of the neck also works.

If employees are unable to follow these tips due to them not being facilitated at work, then they should raise their concerns with their manager or supervisor. It can be difficult to know how to complain about the temperature at work. However, if employees feel that their employer isn’t doing enough to control the hot temperature at work, they absolutely can and should raise concerns about the heat. Following raised concerns, an employer should revisit the risk assessment and put further controls in place to help manage the heat where necessary.

Further Support

For further assistance and advice for managing hot temperature at work during a heatwave or your risk assessment in general, please contact enquiries@fdpeople.co.uk or call 0141 221 2984. Or alternatively, fill in our online contact form here and we will be happy to help.

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