As the mercury hits over 31.8C in some parts of the UK we are reminded that extreme heat and cold can be very dangerous for workers. Level 3 heat-health alerts have been raised in the South of England, the Midlands and some Eastern parts of the country.
Temperatures in the indoor workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which means employers have a legal obligation to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature for employees in the workplace.
When it comes to minimum temperatures the Approved Code of Practice says a minimum temperature of 16C should be maintained unless the workers are undertaking rigorous physical work in which case the minimum temperature should be no less than 13C.
What about higher workplace temperatures?
A definitive figure is not provided generally as some workplaces such as a welding workshop cannot be compared in the same way as an office. The flame temperature used by welders is approximately 3100C! It is possible to work safely in the extreme heat as long as the correct training, precautions and PPE are used.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires a risk assessment to be carried out, identifying potential risks to the health and safety of the workforce. Where possible and necessary actions should be taken to reduce any risks.
Employers and employees should work together so that employers meet their legal obligations and so that employees can communicate their needs in relation to dealing with high temperatures.
The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations. Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.
The heat-health alerts, issued jointly by UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Met Office, are expected to stay in place until next weekend.