It's getting hot in here

By: Fiona Prior

Date: 25 July 2019

An office worker cools down using a fan at his desk.The British are famously obsessed with the weather. Too cold, too wet, more than a centimetre of snow on the ground? This week though, all we can talk about is just how hot it will get.

The Met Office is predicting record breaking temperatures this week with a possible 39℃ in the south east. Network Rail is reporting severe service disruptions over fears that train tracks could buckle in the extreme heat.

So, all the talk around the water cooler is "how hot is too hot". Officially, there is no maximum working temperature. Employers only need to ensure that the workplace has a comfortable working temperature and a supply of fresh air.

If you already have a workplace policy for extreme weather or public transport disruption detailing the efforts you expect employees to make when getting to work, you must follow it. Having a policy that covers such matters is helpful if only because they reduce the potential for confusion, inconsistency and disputes.

The policy may mean employees have to consider alternative means of travel if they usually come in by train. Could they take the bus, or add extra travel time in case of delays?

Allowing flexible working

In extreme heat, it may pay you to be more flexible. You might allow staff to start and finish at different times or to take annual leave at short notice so that they can benefit from the fine weather.

Your policy might allow employees who can do so productively to work from home, but you must consider whether their home working conditions meet health and safety requirements. You might also relax your workplace dress codes to allow staff to wear shorts or less formal clothes. Of course, if your staff need to wear personal protective clothing to comply with health and safety rules they should continue to do so,

Communication is key. You should make it clear how and when employees should contact you to let you know if they cannot get into work, as well as keep you informed if they are delayed while travelling to work.

Keeping cool at work

If your staff do manage to make it to work, you should consider how you can keep the workplace a more comfortable place to work. You might:

  • Allow staff to dress in cooler clothing.
  • Provide fans or air conditioning units.
  • Provide free, cold drinks or a supply of drinking water so staff can remain hydrated. You could even treat staff to a frozen treat such as fruit or an ice lolly!
  • Close windows and blinds to keep the hot air out.
  • Turn off any equipment that is not necessary as many throw out more heat.
  • Allow staff to work in areas that are naturally shaded or cooler; heat rises so working on a lower floor may be more bearable.

You should consider the types of work carried out by different employees and whether you have any workers that are more vulnerable and take steps to reduce the risks facing employees at higher risk from the heat wave.

Copyright 2019. Featured post made possible by Fiona Prior

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