Beating the heat at work?

UK heatwave: Unite calls on government to ‘get a move on’ with clear law on working in hot temperatures

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As temperatures are set to rise above 40C this week, with the UK possibly experiencing its hottest day in recorded history Monday or Tuesday (July 18-19), British workers are well and truly feeling the heat.

The latest heatwave, which could break a 2019 record set in Cambridge of 38.7C, may have many wondering whether it’s safe to work, and what their rights are.

The TUC has issued advice outlining what employers can do to make sure their workers stay safe and cool in high temperatures.

But for those searching for some definitive respite in the law, they’ll be sadly disappointed. While there is a legal minimum temperature under which workers can refuse to work — and what’s more there is a legal maximum temperature under which livestock may be transported — no such legal protection exists for British workers who are trying to beat the heat.

Unite has long campaigned for a maximum working temperature and continues to do so. Unite national health and safety adviser Rob Miguel reiterated Unite’s call today (July 18).

Commenting, Miguel said, “Unite is pressing for a maximum temperature for safe working of 27 degrees Celsius for strenuous jobs and 30 degrees Celsius for sedentary jobs, and a trigger of 24 degrees Celsius where action should be taken to reduce temperatures indoors and strict protection measures put in place for outdoor workers.

“As the climate changes, it is vital that health and safety law is updated in line with the serious challenges this presents for workers,” he added. “We urge the government to get a move on with this so that there can be no ambiguities in the workplace.

“In the meantime, employers have a legal and moral duty to ensure workers’ health is not damaged during the current hot weather,” Miguel continued.“Employers should be increasing the frequency and length of rest periods, while also ensuring that workers have free access to cool drinking water at all times.”

By UniteLive team

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