Connecting North West business to relevant training, insight, conversation and each other

How to handle a heatwave

As temperatures continue to soar, many are ditching the jeans and jumpers and donning shorts and t-shirts instead. However, although this may be suitable when not at work, the dos and don’ts of what to wear in the workplace during the sweltering heat can be difficult to navigate. It’s always worth checking company’s uniform policy to check the dos and don’ts during warmer temperatures.

Some companies with a strict dress policy may offer a dress-down option during hot weather. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean beachwear, it may offer the option of cooler, comfier clothing during soaring temperatures.

As an employer, working environment shall be provided so that as far as ‘reasonably practicable’ it is safe and without risks to health. Employers also have to assess the risks and put in place any necessary prevention or control measures. However, the law does not specify a maximum temperature for workers – the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 simply state temperatures inside workplace buildings must be ‘reasonable’. Additionally, the Approved Code of Practice to the Workplace Regulations say ‘all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature.

Working outside in direct sunlight can put employee at greater risk. Outside workers should be given sun cream and hats. Employers should also make sure protective clothing is light and suitable and that staff always have access to fresh water and regular breaks. Ideally work should be organised so workers aren’t outside during the hottest part of the day.

Working outside in the heat can also lead to dehydration and heat stress in addition to fatigue, muscle cramps, rashes, fainting and in severe cases loss of consciousness. Employers should make sure an adequate risk assessment has been carried out and that controls are in place to prevent workers suffering from sunstroke, excess sun exposure, dehydration or heat stress.

There are a number of things that you can do to improve thermal comfort in your workplace. These are as per following;

  • Provide thinner personal protective clothing if possible (subjected to the risk assessment review)
  • Use a desk or pedestal fan to increase air movement
  • Use a buddy system with your team to look out for the signs of heat stress (e.g. confusion, Looking pale or clammy, fast breathing) in each other.
  • Use window blinds (if available) to cut down on the heating effects of the sun
  • In warm situations, drink plenty of water (avoid caffeinated or carbonated drinks)
  • If possible, work away from direct sunlight or sources of radiant heat
  • Take regular breaks to cool down in warm situations and heat up in cold situations
  • Keep checking Met Office for the weather updates
  • Raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of heat stress and dehydration (thirst, dry mouth, dark or strong-smelling urine, urinating infrequently or in small amounts, inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, fainting). Don’t wait until you start to feel unwell before you take a break.
  • Introducing work patterns to limit exposure, such as early or late starts to help avoid the worst effects of working in high temperatures.

For more information about how to manage heat stress in the workplace,  contact the Napthens Health and Safety team

temperature thermometer