Monday, 20 August 2007

Helping staff to keep their cool

Shropshire employers must ensure they protect their staff from overheating in the workplace, a local solicitor has warned.

John Mehtam is the Employment Law Specialist at Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Telford, and he said companies must help their workforce to keep their cool.

“Obviously this summer’s unpredictable weather has been difficult, but if things do warm up, it’s important to ensure your staff are well looked after.”

John said currently there was no maximum working temperature listed in the UK for office or industrial workers.

“The Health and Safety Executive and TUC recommend a maximum working temperature of not more than 30 degrees Celsius – but the World Health Organisation recommends a maximum of 24 degrees.

“This conflict makes setting a level difficult, but it’s important to apply common sense and ensure that temperatures are ‘reasonable’ or you may find you are failing to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act.”

John suggested employers should carry out a risk assessment in the workplace and measure the temperatures their staff were working in.

“Supply plenty of water, and if the summer weather does eventually kick in, allow staff to take longer or more frequent breaks, particularly in manufacturing industries.
“Be flexible with start and finish times, to allow staff to work at cooler times of the day, and provide refreshments. Make sure you supply workplace thermometers, as this is a legal requirement, and bring in electric fans and air conditioning equipment if required.

“Allow staff to rotate their duties too, so that they are not constantly carrying out tasks in the hottest part of the building, or which are the most physically demanding on a hot day.

“By tackling these issues sensibly, you can help create a more acceptable working environment and so avoid staff taking time off work through illness caused by excessive temperatures.

“You must provide a safe workplace for your staff, and this includes ensuring they are comfortable at all times.”