Extreme Heat – Know your rights as an employee and your duties as an employer.

Posted: 11 August 2022

The Health and Safety Executive [“HSE”] has published advice in relation to working in extreme heat that the UK is currently experiencing. We set out below the headlines and duties of both an employee and employer.

Rights of an employee

There is no maximum temperature which a workplace can be, however workers are entitled to work in an environment where risks to their health and safety are properly controlled. Heat is a Hazard and comes with obligations like any other work-related hazard.

As an employee you must also look after your own health and safety that may be affected at work. If you have queries relating to your health and safety speak to your employer.

Steps you can take to improve working conditions within your workplace during extreme heat include:

  • remove layers of clothing
  • use a desk or pedestal fan to increase air movement
  • use window blinds (if available) to cut down on the heating effects of the sun
  • in warm situations, drink plenty of water
  • if possible, work away from direct sunlight or sources of radiant heat
  • take regular breaks to cool down in warm situations
  • raise the issue with your managers or, if you can, with your union or other workplace representatives


An employer’s duty

As an employer you must make sure that the indoor temperature remains at a reasonable temperature and manage any risks associated with working outdoors in the heat.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 places a duty on employers to assess and manage risks to their employees and others and where necessary take reasonably practical action.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 places a legal obligation for temperatures inside workplace buildings to be reasonable.

What is reasonable will be dependant upon the nature of the workplace and should be assessed individually. For example, what is reasonable in a bakery may not be reasonable within an office environment, however measures should be taken to control the effects of temperature and manage the risks associated with it.

Employers should consult their employees to establish a reasonable way to cope with high temperatures. This can be done by:

  • providing fans
  • ensuring that windows can be opened
  • shading employees from direct sunlight with blinds or by using reflective film on windows to reduce the heating effects of the sun
  • siting workstations away from direct sunlight
  • relaxing formal dress code – but you must ensure that personal protective equipment is provided and used if required
  • allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down
  • providing additional facilities, eg cold water dispensers
  • introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure, eg flexible working patterns, job rotation, workstation rotation etc
  • placing insulating materials around hot plant and pipes
  • providing air-cooling or air-conditioning plant.

Working outdoors can have potentially serious affects as a result of the weather and environment. Unnecessary exposure to the sun can be avoided by:

  • Wearing long sleeve shirts or loose clothing with a close weave;
  • Wearing hats with a wide brim;
  • More frequent rest breaks;
  • Taking breaks in the shade whenever possible;
  • Scheduling work to cooler times of the day; and
  • If possible, provide shade where work tasks are being undertaken.

If you require assistance, contact us, we would be happy to help. Call us on 01245 49959, or send an email or complete our online form.

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