We don’t want to jinx it but, if we really are in store for a heatwave, many of you might be wondering how hot it has to get before you can leave work and head for your back garden/nearest beer garden…
It’s not good news – whilst the law sets a minimum working temperature of 16°C, remarkably there is no upper-temperature limit. Perhaps it’s because we don’t have this problem too much in England!
Employers still have to comply with Health & Safety at work legislation which requires them to provide clean and fresh air and to keep a ‘reasonable’ temperature. ‘Reasonable’ is, of course, open to interpretation but the Health & Safety Executive suggests that an acceptable ‘thermal comfort’ zone is between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F) for ‘workrooms’.
Further, employers should not only monitor air temperature but radiant air temperature, air velocity, humidity, clothing insulation and metabolic heat when considering thermal comfort or thermal stress i.e. environmental and personal factors.
But what if you’re melting?
Tell your employer you are uncomfortable. Employers should respond to such complaints pro-actively and should consider carrying out a ‘thermal comfort risk assessment’ if a significant number of people complain of being too hot. When the mercury is really rising The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has suggested employers should temporarily relax their dress codes, provide fans and even cold drinks to keep employees comfortable.
The TUC also recommends that employers of outdoor workers consider accommodating extremely hot weather by re-arranging working hours so that the midday heat can be avoided where possible.