As an employer you have a duty of care to your staff to maintain their safety at work, and though there are no legal limits set for maximum safe working temperatures, under heath and safety law employers must keep the temperature at a comfortable level and provide clean and fresh air.

Working during a heat wave can be challenging for everyone, but there are some workers who are at much higher risk of harm. By  considering the risks in advance, you can put a plan in place to mitigate much of that risk.

Workers at additional risk:

  • Those who work outside should, where possible, avoid being in direct sun during the hottest part of the day. Workers should have access to shaded areas, water and sun protection. They are likely to require additional rest breaks.
  • Those who travel for work should be advised to check their vehicles fluid levels before setting out, as well as their tyre pressures. They should ensure they have a good supply of drinks in the vehicle in case of vehicle breakdown / over-heating, as well as a means for calling for help if required. Anyone experiencing any heat related ill health should refrain from driving.
  • Some medications can affect the way the body regulates temperature, others can make the skin much more sensitive to sunlight. Staff on medication may need additional adjustments in order to work safely.
  • Pregnant staff should be monitored carefully, and their pregnancy risk assessment kept up to date.
  • Staff who suffer with long term health conditions, in particular heart and lung conditions, may find the heat exacerbates their condition and may need additional adjustments to be made.

You may wish to consider a temporary change to uniform policies during a heat wave, particularly if you have a heavy/thick uniform. However, you should remind staff that they still need to wear clothing and footwear that meets health and safety requirements of the
environment they work in.

Consider a bulk purchase of water to have on site for staff comfort. Where practical you may want to consider items such as fans (which can be helpful when the temp is below 35 degrees) or air con units to cool the room temperature.

Keeping windows and curtains/blinds closed whilst the sun is on that side of the building will help keep the internal room temperature lower.

Be aware that public transport may be disrupted, which may have a knock-on effect on staff arriving for work.

Make your self and your team aware of the signs of heat related illness so that you can all watch out for each other. The NHS website has a list of signs and symptoms to be aware of, as well as what course of action should be taken. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke – NHS