As the heat wave rages on, and a report estimating that 650 people may have died prematurely due to the current heatwave in England is published, the debate about maximum workplace temperatures has raised its head again.
Whilst a minimum workplace temperature requirement exists, a maximum does not. Employees in a wide range of workplaces – from industrial bakeries to school classrooms are often subjected to high temperatures which can impact seriously on their health and well-being, with effects ranging from discomfort, stress, irritability and headaches, to extra strain on the heart and lungs, dizziness and fainting and heat cramps due to loss of water and salt. The consequent reduction in cognitive function, attention span and visual motor tracking can contribute to workplace accidents and fatalities.
Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and the associated Approved Code of Practice suggests that the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable, but this guidance leaves considerable uncertainty as to the upper limit beyond which control measures must be in place.
As the UK heatwave continues, the workplace maximum temperature debate, which was last raised by MPs back in 2010, has hotted up again. A group of 29 MPs are supporting early day motion urging the Government to resolve uncertainty for employers about their duty to combat excessive heat in the workplace by introducing a maximum working workplace temperature of 30C (86F) and of 27C (81F) for those doing strenuous work.
The question is – will this recent run of good weather be enough to prompt real action to change workplace maximum temperature laws or will all be forgotten once the rain returns tomorrow…