The UK summer weather may provide special opportunities for home and leisure activities, but heat wave conditions can make working environments uncomfortable. Although temperatures are not necessarily high in comparison to those routinely experienced in other parts of the world, part of the problem is that the body and its organ systems have inadequate time to acclimatise to the heat.
There is no legal maximum temperature above which employees should not have to work, but there should be flexibility by departments in approach to work, particularly where it is strenuous during periods of high temperature. For most, this workplace discomfort is of nuisance value and will not result in heat exhaustion.
For those working indoors, departments may consider a selection of simple steps in the workplace to provide some relief and minimise the risk of heat exhaustion. For example:
Have you tried these relatively easy steps that could make your working environment cooler?
- Opening windows
- Checking that the radiators are turned off
- Can you work from home or different location
- Shading windows from direct sunlight (e.g. blinds, curtains or reflective film)
- Moving workstations away from direct sunlight and objects that radiate heat
- Ensuring an adequate supply of desk and pedestal fans
- Ensuring that a plentiful supply of drinking water or other drinks is available
- Encouraging individuals to drink plenty of water
- Avoiding caffeine or very sweet drinks
- Temporarily relaxing any formal dress code for all staff (both male and female) – for example, by permitting smart, casual or light, loose fitting clothes to be worn rather than suits and ties, wear natural fibres instead of synthetic. Note: personal protective equipment should still be provided and used if required
- Permitting more rest breaks during the working day to get drinks or to cool down
- Introducing a flexitime system, so that individuals can come in earlier or work later to avoid the rush hour commute in sweltering temperatures; or
- Limiting the amount of physical work during hot spells.
Where temperatures remain a concern please contact Estates, who can address issues relating to building construction/performance, and have access to a range of potential solutions to either reduce the source of overheating or cool the building.
It should be noted that some people, particularly those with certain medical conditions, or who are pregnant, are more vulnerable to heat exhaustion. If there are any health concerns about vulnerability or how to manage it, individuals should contact our Occupational Health Department.
Michelle Taylor (Health & Safety Advisor)
People Services DCHS