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April 19, 2018

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How to keep cool at work during the heatwave

As parts of the UK bask in soaring temperatures, many people will be wondering about what the rules are governing working in hot weather.

Hottest day of the year

According to the HSE, the law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C or 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort.


The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.”
However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

But these regulations only apply to employees – they do not apply to members of the public, for example, with regard temperature complaints from customers in a shopping centre or cinema.

Expert advice

A guide developed by Barbour for working in the sun advises workers to:

• Keep your clothing on so that you do not expose unprotected areas
• Seek shade during the hottest part of the day
• Drink plenty of liquid – with one cup of water every 15 minutes in high heat
• And regularly check skin, look for any changed or newly-formed moles, or skin discolouration, particularly around the nose and eyes.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has recommended employers allow staff to adopt less formal attire when temperatures rise.


The TUC also recommends bosses ensure that outdoor workers have sun-screen and water and are given advice on the need to protect themselves from the heat and sun allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.

In addition, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union has also been running a campaign, which aims of setting a maximum temperature of between 27 and 30 degrees for workers in its sector, called Cool It.

“It would place duties on employers to provide additional breaks free refreshments and to reduce workplace temperatures. We have had some workplaces recording temp at 90 degrees and above which clearly unacceptable,” said the union’s national president, Ian Hodson.

“We are looking at linking it to our campaign around the environment with a charter that will look at committing employers to ensure they control heat by looking at ways it can be turned into energy or example.

“We have noticed most of the senior managers where high temperatures occur have air conditioned offices and in there cars we think it’s time that workers where afforded the same basis working conditions,” added Mr Hodson.

Sleep and Fatigue: Director’s Briefing

Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.

This free director’s briefing contains:

  • Key points;
  • Recommendations for employers;
  • Case law;
  • Legal duties.
Barbour EHS

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Phil Myles
Phil Myles

I have worked in a high hazard industry where the compulsory PPE adds additional problems to heat stress. In my original assessment we wrote an agreed policy and procedure that covered this situation. The PPE is designed to prevent chemical dust contamination as well as protection against flash fire at high temperature. We came up with a number of solutions including, cold vests, water camel packs, perspiration dispersion clothing. We included additional breaks, showers and compulsory drink breaks with energy salts. There were enhanced occupational health checks and regular temperature monitoring and recording. The company instigated a change in working… Read more »