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Heat Stress What To Do When It's Hot At Work

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Feeling the heat at work? As climate change cranks up the temperatures, understanding how to manage heat stress during the summer months is more crucial than ever. We will explore the impacts of rising temperatures in your workplace and provide practical steps to stay cool, safe, and productive.


As we move into the summer season, our focus shifts to managing heat stress at work. Currently, no UK law specifies an exact temperature deemed too hot for working. However, employers have a duty of care to ensure reasonable working conditions. According to data from the Copernicus Climate Change Service, the global mean temperature over the last 12 months has been the highest on record, with a 0.64°C increase from the 1991-2020 average.

Essential Tips for Organisations to Support Employees During Hot Weather

Encourage hydration

Providing water coolers or cooled water, depending on your workspace, is essential. Employees should drink water frequently, aiming for 3-4 drinks per hour in hot conditions, regardless of thirst. For those who love their coffee, it's best to avoid caffeine in the heat!

Offer training
Spread awareness of the risks or symptoms around heat stress associated with their profession.

Supply appropriate clothing
Outside workers should wear light, loose-fitting clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Be aware that protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress, so it's important to provide additional rest breaks for these employees. Office workers should consider implementing a more relaxed clothing policy that allows for summer attire during hot weather, promoting comfort and productivity.

Acclimatisation UK style
It's not always simple here; our weather is unpredictable! Look out for heat waves and use careful judgement to regulate levels of effort, especially for outdoor employees. Encourage frequent breaks in cool areas.

Establish a heat illness prevention program
Include safe working practices and emergency procedures. Define a safe environment (temperature and humidity) and specify how long you can work in hot conditions.

Know your environment
Certain buildings may have sections where the heat becomes more intense, and outside spaces may have more shaded parts at different times of the day. Allow your workforce to take advantage of cooler spaces if they are available.

Maximise ventilation
Fans or air conditioning units may not always be the most environmentally friendly choice, but you can enhance their efficiency and reduce energy consumption. Use fans during work hours with open windows to promote fresh air circulation without unnecessary power consumption. Remember to unplug any heat-producing appliances when they're not in use.

Steps the employee can take:
It appears that beyond the employer's role, it largely falls on the responsibility of the employee to gauge when the temperature becomes excessive. The maximum working temperature is not officially recognised. According to government guidelines, employers must adhere to health and safety regulations, and employees are encouraged to communicate discomfort to their employer. While the government specifies a minimum temperature of 16°C (or 13°C for physical work), assessing discomfort due to heat is subjective and influenced by various factors. Understanding personal limits is crucial. While professional medical advice is advisable, awareness of risk factors is also valuable:

  • Weight
  • Age
  • Metabolism
  • Fitness
  • Alcohol and drug intake
  • Medical factors - high blood pressure, heart conditions
  • Pregnancy

For example, advanced age, higher weight, and alcohol intake can collectively reduce tolerance to heat.

In summary, the guidelines may not provide absolute clarity, but intuition and common sense serve as valuable allies in navigating this topic. Employers must ensure compliance with all health and safety standards and can offer practical advice to their workforce. Adapt your workplace to the best of your ability to promote a safe and comfortable environment for all.