June 19, 2017
Your Health & Safety Guide to Working in Hot Weather Conditions
When we’re working through a heatwave there’s always pros and cons.
While the sun cheers everyone up on day one, by day three you start to hear mutterings among staff – it’s boiling in here! Isn’t it about time we got air conditioning? It’s against health and safety to work in this temperature!
And while there is a specific minimal temperature quoted in The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations – workplaces should normally be at least 16º C – there is no specified upper limit.
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.’
The associated ACOP ( Workplace health, safety and welfare. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Approved Code of Practice) goes on to explain:
“The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable. ‘Workroom’ means a room where people normally work for more than short periods.
“The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity.”
So what is reasonable?
After all, one person’s hot can be another person’s cold (often sitting side-by-side)!
Air-conditioning can be expensive to install and maintain, so how do we address this occasional and seemingly incurable problem?
Tips to reduce the stress from working in hot weather:
- Provide electric fans to move air around the room.
- Provide portable air conditioning units BUT sometimes, due to having an open window for the hose, this will reduce the effectiveness.
- Provide water dispensers dispensing cold water.
- Fit solar reflective coating films to windows. Low cost and very effective.
- Fit low energy light bulbs.
All the above necessitate some expenditure with possible hire or purchase, with air conditioning units being the most expensive. They can also be ineffective and you should ensure your supplier advises on siting and size etc.
Low cost remedies can include the following:
- Frequent breaks at the hotter times of the day.
- Vary working hours, e.g. allow an early start.
- Relax the dress code, e.g. shorts allowed!
- Switch off lights if natural light levels allow this.
- Keep computers, copiers etc on standby or, if possible, switched off to prevent heat build up.
- If possible leave windows open at night or open them early in the morning to allow cooler air in.
- An ice lolly break often helps!
- Recognise heat stress in your employees and act quickly.