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How to Prevent Office Tensions When the Heat Soars

View profile for Clare Bowen
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The sight of people wilting under fans and going about their daily lives in shorts and sandals is a rarity in Britain – we are more used to being buffeted by the wind and rain during our daily commute.

But as temperatures soar into the 30Cs, we are facing some less common workplace issues – how to be productive when the office temperature soars.

From a legal standpoint rules around temperatures in the indoor workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

The Regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a reasonable temperature in the workplace, but while there is a minimum working temperature – of at least 16C -  there is no statutory upper limit. Instead, an employer has a duty to determine what constitutes reasonable comfort in the given circumstances.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says a meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale because of the necessarily high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In these environments, it is still possible to work safely as long as appropriate controls are in place. 

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.

Most employers understand, of course, that providing comfortable workplace conditions is essential for the smooth running of their business and for the welfare of their employees and colleagues, and it isn't just the legalities of this issue that they will be considering during the current heatwave.

Here are some things you might want to do, to help people keep their cool as the mercury soars:

  • Relax your dress code – If you usually insist on a formal dress code it makes sense to relax this during scorching weather. You may not want customer-facing staff to pad about in beach shorts and flip flops, but short sleeves, simple cotton dresses or smart shorts are acceptable to most people.
  • Make sure water is freely available- many offices will have a water cooler. Make sure employees are free to use this whenever they need to. If you don't have one, then consider supplying bottled water.
  • Do an ice-cream run. The office dieters might not thank you, but needs must under extreme circumstances!
  • Temporarily alter working hours. Most people will be more productive in the early morning before the ambient temperature creeps up as the day progresses. Can some of your teams start work earlier and finish earlier, or can you opt to let all staff leave work an hour earlier?
  • Clearly, many people have jobs outdoors, and it is even more important to consider their working conditions during a heatwave – so wearing appropriate protective clothing, sunscreen, head coverings and staying very well hydrated is crucial.
  • Another very important factor for all employers under these circumstances is communication. Ask your staff if they are comfortable and what you can do to help. 

A Non- Lawyer Director, Clare leads the HR Services team. The team provides outsourced HR support and ongoing advice and guidance to the firm's business clients. The service includes an optional insurance backing for any unforeseeable employee issues that may arise, and offers a tailored solution to suit the client; from full outsourced HR to a simple and low cost monthly mentoring service.

 

 

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