Too hot to work?

With a heatwave well underway, and with some reports expecting the hot weather to stick around until the end of August, many employers are likely to be hearing their employees say it’s “too hot to work” – but is there a maximum temperature above which employees cannot be expected to work?

Well, yes and no.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (SI 1992/3004) state that, during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be reasonable. However, the Regulations do not provide a maximum workplace temperature. That’s not to say, however that employees can be required to work no matter the conditions.

The Health and Safety Executive previously provided guidelines stating that an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies “roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and for more sedentary activities towards the higher end”. This is a huge range, and what is reasonable will depend on the nature of the workplace and the activities undertaken.

Employers should bear in mind their duty of care to their employees and their health and safety obligations in assessing whether it is safe for staff to work in the heat.

If you have any queries about health and safety at work or any other employment related query, please get in touch with Charlotte Braham in the Employment Department on 01494 893529.


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