We need a maximum safe working temperature

UNISON backs Labour plans to legislate on excessive heat in the workplace

UNISON has welcomed Labour’s pledge to legislate for a maximum safe working temperature, with legal safeguards to help workers stay cool.

The party revealed plans today for changes to law recruiting employer to put effective measures in place if the workplace temperature gets above 30˚ Celsius – or 27˚C for those doing strenuous work.

Those measures could include flexible working and travel arrangements, extra breaks, access to water, cooling systems and air conditioning, flexible dress codes or the provision of protective clothing.

Current health and safety legislation specifies minimum working temperatures, but not a maximum. This means most workers have no legal safeguards to protect them from working during uncomfortably high temperatures or dangerous extreme heat.

UNISON head of health and safety Robert Baughan points out that both the union and the TUC “have long called for indoor maximum of 30˚C. We would also call on employers to do more to protect those working outdoors in these temperatures.

“The sort of temperatures we are seeing this week may mean it is just not safe to carry on working as normal. A change of duties may need to be considered or stopping work altogether.

“Other measures would include making sure workers are appropriately clothed to protect them from the sun, and making sure they have enough liquid.

“Employers should also consider relaxing dress codes – whether staff are working indoors or outdoors.”

UNISON health and safety information sheet – temperature at work

Health and Safety Executive: Temperature at work FAQs

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