Acas, the conciliation agency, and the TUC have both issued advice to employers to ensure that workers stay safe in the sun.
Some workers may be more at risk than others. So for instance, workers like builders, agricultural workers and gardeners who are outside for lengthy periods in high temperatures are particularly at risk of sunstroke, sunburn and even skin cancer. The heat can also be dangerous for workers whose jobs involve driving. The TUC says that employers should therefore provide cars, vans or lorries with air conditioning.
On the other hand, some workers may be more adversely affected by the hot weather than others, such as the elderly, pregnant women or those on medication. Acas therefore suggests that employers give them more frequent rest breaks and ensure ventilation is adequate by providing fans or portable air cooling units. In addition, it suggests that employers use blinds or curtains to block out sunlight.
Both organisations emphasise the importance of ensuring that workplace temperatures are reasonable, that workers are able to stay cool at work and remain hydrated at all times. As such, employers need to provide staff with suitable drinking water in the workplace.
Although employers do not have to relax their uniform or dress code requirements, Acas suggests that employers should, at the very least, relax the rules for wearing ties or suits. For its part, the TUC recommends that employers provide lightweight brimmed hats for all outdoor workers and ensure that any protective clothing is lightweight, long-sleeved and comfortable. In addition, it suggests that employers provide canopies or covering for open areas and shaded areas for breaks.
In addition, the TUC suggests that employers organise work so outside tasks are done earlier in the morning and later in the afternoon, rather than the period between 11am and 3pm when temperatures are highest. It also points out that it would be helpful for any advice to be made available in other languages for migrant workers.
Finally, the TUC recommends that employers work with their health and safety union reps to work out the most appropriate and effective measures that would best protect their workers in these conditions.
David Robinson of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “This advice is about ensuring employers approach their management health and safety dynamically and flexibly. Working in high temperatures can cause significant permanent damage to employees’ health and it is fundamentally important they have measures in place to prevent harm. Employers should be proactive in their planning and should not wait until a heatwave is upon the nation”.