We need a maximum safe working temperature, says UNISON

Current legislation specifies minimum working temperatures, but not a maximum.

Matt Bodell
31 July 2019
Heatwave

Measures could include flexible working, extra breaks, access to water, cooling systems and air conditioning.

With temperatures soaring above 40 degrees on some wards, clinics and offices earlier this week, UNISON has welcomed a pledge to legislate for a maximum safe working temperature.

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The Labour party revealed plans earlier this week for changes to law requiring employers to ensure 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.

‘Not safe’.

A lack of a maximum working temperature means most workers have no legal safeguards to protect them from working during uncomfortably high temperatures or dangerous extreme heat.

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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.”

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