Handling a heatwave

It’s not often in the UK that we get such a prolonged spell of warm weather and it can create some difficulties for employers who may face questions or challenges as a result of the rising temperatures.

It may come as a surprise to many that there is no maximum working temperature in the UK. The HSE’s guidance simply states that the working environment temperature should be ‘reasonable’ but of course interpretation of what is ‘reasonable’ can vary depending on the working environment and what type of work is being undertaken.

As a point of reference, it’s often cited that people tend to work best in temperatures between 16 and 24 degrees C. It is a good idea for risk assessments to be carried out and reviewed regularly to maintain safe working.

Best practice is for employers to have a clear policy for weather to cover all extreme events including heatwaves so that there are clear rules over how issues in these circumstances are treated and to ensure there is consistency in how these are managed.

It’s a good idea to remind your workforce of the importance of looking after themselves by keeping hydrated and having adequate water supplies available. Many people don’t drink the recommended 2 litres a day on a normal day but in extreme temperatures its even more important to prevent dehydration which can cause headaches and poor concentration as well as potentially make people a bit irritable!!

Try and keep the work space cool where possible, look at hiring additional cooling equipment i.e. fans etc. if you don’t have air conditioning or even consider buying a round of ice creams as a one off – I’m sure it’d be appreciated!

Don't forget to cover how you would handle issues with public transport, in case there are delays or cancellations to services due to extreme weather that then impact on your employees being able to get to work on time.

You may have some exceptional cases to consider too, with employees who have medical issues that may struggle in extreme temperatures i.e. pregnant or those taking certain medications. Take time to understand their personal circumstances and agree any adjustments with them on a one to one basis.

Some companies have a strict dress code but in extremes it is worth considering dress down options if possible without compromising health and safety, but you need to be clear on what is acceptable and indeed appropriate for your business environment so that you aren’t setting yourself up for other issues such as complaints over suggestive comments being made.

Finally don’t forget your outdoor workers can be at great risk of burning so look at provisions for them; what clothing you may provide, and consider looking to your facilities provider for industrial sun protect options. This includes those who drive for a job who may get sunburnt without realising (ever seen ‘drivers arm’?) so make sure you communicate with any field based employees too.

The heatwave is set to stay with us this week so consider what you can do to help your employees stay safe and enjoy the weather whilst at work.

If you are an employer and need assistance with staff and employment matters, talk to Cheryl at PeakHR. We offer competitive rates and cater specifically for small employers.

Please note our blog posts contain general information and are intended as guidance only and should not be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. Please ensure that you obtain advice tailored to your individual situation before taking action. These posts apply to the UK only.

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