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Work in Hot Weather

How hot is too hot, and do you have the necessary adjustments in place to keep your employees safe in heatwaves?

We all know that the weather forecast is so tricky to predict, and sometimes can be wrong. Climate change is impacting us all and the Met Office acknowledges that these changes could mean we see “more intense…  even hotter summer weather”.

On such occasions, it is important to be prepared. When heatwaves come, they impact so many different aspects of all our lives both at work and in our general day-to-day downtime.  

Read our tips to help businesses prepare and make sure employees are kept as safe and as comfortable as possible.

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Maintain acceptable working temperatures

When trying to determine what an acceptable working temperature is, it’s worth noting that there is no legal maximum or minimum working temperature. Health and safety guidance suggests all indoor workplaces should be a minimum of 13C if the role is physically demanding, and 16C if it is not. However, no guidance has been issued on maximum temperatures.

With this in mind, you should review all roles across your company to prepare for heatwaves. This includes employees working indoors, and outdoors, and those who work on the road too, to assess how the hot weather conditions will impact their role. This leads us to our next point…

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Be proactive and check in with your employees regularly

It is important to remember that work in hot weather impacts everyone differently. Some people can be much more vulnerable and have a stronger reaction than others. We suggest that all employers speak to each member of their team regularly to get a better understanding of their needs and put appropriate measures in place.

For employees working outdoors, sun exposure can be dangerous. Ensure they have more frequent breaks, get out of the sunlight as much as possible, and of course, drink plenty of water and wear sun cream. Sunstroke, sunburn, and dehydration are just a few of the risks that outdoor workers face during heatwaves.  

Employees who drive for a living need to be equipped with water and wear sunscreen to avoid dehydration and sunburn. Unfortunately, warmer weather and humid conditions can result in hay fever symptoms being heightened.

Any employees who operate any large machinery or drive for a living should avoid any antihistamines that may cause drowsiness and ensure any regular medication is always available such as insulin, as hot weather conditions can affect blood sugar levels.

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Offer flexible working hours in hot weather

Ask yourself, can it be too hot to work? If the answer is yes, then you must put your employees’ health and safety first.

In 2023, Great Britain experienced record-high temperatures during the summer, and the HSE asked all employers to be responsible. One of the measures they suggested was offering flexible working patterns so that employees could work at cooler times of the day.

The Met Office states that the hottest time of the day is between 11 am and 3 pm. If adjustments can be made to reduce the amount of time employees are asked to work during this time, it may be worth investigating.

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Relax the work dress code in hot weather

There is nothing worse than being stuck in restrictive clothing when it is sweltering. By relaxing the dress code, you allow employees to work in hot weather and feel more comfortable.

You can still enforce reasonable requirements to avoid the dress code becoming too informal. For example, you might ask that employees avoid wearing flip-flops to work. You might even consider adding a summer dress code policy in the company’s employee handbook so that everyone is informed.

Please note, this doesn’t apply if the dress code is in place for safety reasons i.e. PPE. In this case, workers who are required to use PPE need to take more regular breaks to avoid heat exhaustion.  

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Let fresh air circulate in the office

Rather than cranking up the air conditioning try to let fresh air circulate as much as possible. If you have windows on opposing walls, try opening both to create a through current – this can be especially handy on days when there is very little breeze outside.

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Make sure the office air conditioning is serviced regularly

If you do opt for air conditioning, whether by choice or necessity, make sure that the air conditioning unit or cooling system is working properly. Over time, units can see a build-up of dust forming meaning they aren’t as good at cooling the air, and as a side effect can mean there is more pollen and bacteria in the air too. Getting them serviced regularly will make them more energy efficient but most importantly, safer.

On a side note, if any individuals sit near the air con unit make sure to check in with them regularly. Working in chilly temperatures is just as much of a hindrance as working in blazing heat. Ensure you have alternative solutions available to care for these employees too.

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Supply office fans (but use with caution)

When the temperature rises, fans tend to appear in workplace offices. If this is the case in your workplace, ensure you have enough of them to help make the whole space more comfortable temperature-wise. Again, like air conditioning units, make sure all fans are PAT tested.

It is worth noting that although fans can be beneficial, particularly in rooms with only one window where they can encourage airflow and create a makeshift cross current, they can, depending on the temperature, also exacerbate the situation. If the temperature is particularly high, using a fan might work against you by essentially acting as a giant hairdryer blowing the hot air at you.

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Be mindful during work social events

As previously mentioned, heat impacts everyone differently. And for some, they may want to take advantage of the temperature rise and enjoy some time in the sunshine. Summer does tend to see an influx of outdoor gatherings including work socials and team-building days.

Studies show that drinking alcohol during warmer temperatures makes it harder for your body to regulate its temperature and may mean you are at an increased risk of heat illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or dehydration drinking alcohol during warmer temperatures makes it harder for your body to regulate its temperature.

Make sure that you are mindful of your alcohol intake during heatwaves and allow extra time for your body to recover before driving or operating heavy machinery.

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Business insurance from Towergate

Remember that changes you make to your operations during a heatwave may have an impact on your business insurance.

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About the author

Alison Wild Bcom Hons MAAT MATT Taxation Technician Commercial Tax Pensions Insurance And Marketing Specialist AuthorAlison Wild BCom (Hons), MAAT, MATT, Taxation Technician is a highly respected industry professional who has been working with and advising SMEs in areas including tax, pensions, insurance and marketing for over 25 years. She is a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and Association of Tax Technicians (ATT) and also has 20 years' experience as a residential landlord.