Working in hot weather conditions
While we are enjoying the sunny weather, working in such hot conditions can be at least uncomfortable and at worst may be a threat to our health and safety.
If the working conditions within your workplace either maternity unit, birthing centre, community setting is very uncomfortable and feels unreasonable then you should escalate this to your workplace and managers – when staff are complaining then the employer must carry a risk assessment as described below.
Workforce planning is essential to ensure enough staff available to allow frequent hydration breaks, rest and recovery, consideration of equipment to relieve the situations.
Consulting with staff and their trade union representatives to establish what will work best in the areas of work – short term adjustments may be necessary e.g., flexible shift patterns, uniform changes to comfortable clothing – cotton ‘scrubs’ for example.
When is it too hot at work?
There is no specified temperature regarding working in hot temperatures – The health and safety executive have the following information.
What can be done if the temperature is excessive?
The following list provides several practical ways to address any problems with excess temperature:
- air conditioning units can be adjusted or provided if not already existing
- increasing the number of open windows
- provide staff with fans
- install blinds on windows– this can reduce heat gain through windows
- provision of cold drinking water
- insulating hot plants or pipework
- place workstations away from direct sunlight
- job rotation
- relax requirements on the wearing of a uniform
What the Law says
Temperatures in the indoor workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which place a legal obligation on employers to provide a 'reasonable' temperature in the workplace.
Higher workplace temperatures
A meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. Factors other than air temperature, i.e., radiant temperature, humidity, and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.
In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.
The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations. Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.
- Workplace health safety and welfare... Regulations 1992 (PDF)
- Workplace health safety and welfare; A brief guide (PDF)
- Risk assessment: A brief guide to controlling risk in the workplace (PDF)
- TUC briefing for heatwave
- Stream - It's getting hot in here! - Untitled Section - It's getting hot in here! (curatr3.com)
Health and Safety Executive
England HSE guidance