Working in extreme temperatures

Despite the extreme cold weather snap this week, a recent poll has found that nearly two-thirds of respondents believed that employees should have the day off work if temperatures get too high. Many of us would be grateful this week to be concerned about high temperatures!There have been calls for the Government to introduce a “specific maximum indoor working temperature law, including the ability to withdraw labour if workplace temperatures surpass 30ºC”. If such a law was passed, it would bring the UK into line with other countries, such as Spain and Germany. 

The UK does not currently have any laws in place for when it is too cold or too hot to work, however its guidance for cold weather recommends a minimum of 16ºC, dropping to 13ºC if employees are doing physical work. An important subject, climate change events are likely to have consequences for employees’ safety and health.

Despite the law being so undefined on high and low temperatures, the Health And Safety Executive (HSE) makes clear the steps employers should take to look after staff working outside. In a cold environment, it says mobile facilities should be provided for warming up – with soup and hot drinks available and that there should also be more frequent rest breaks.

It is important that appropriate protective equipment and clothing are provided for staff and workplace temperatures should be monitored to determine how they are affecting staff. In extreme cold temperatures it is worth considering offering the opportunity (if possible) to delay work until there is warmer weather – or introduce flexible working patterns or job rotation.

The important thing to consider is that extreme hot or cold temperatures affect employees differently and it is important to talk to staff, make sure that they are protected from the elements and if necessary, make specific arrangements based on individual circumstances.

Should you require advice in respect of working in extreme temperatures please contact one of our qualified consultants on 0800 9995 121

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