EMPLOYERS are being urged to take steps to keep staff comfortable during the heatwave or risk falling foul of the law.
As forecasters predict that temperatures will soar well over 30 degrees this week, employment law specialist Tim Forer of Portsmouth law firm Blake Morgan is reminding employers of their duty to make sure staff do not suffer from heat stress.
The condition occurs when the body is unable to regulate its temperature and is caused by hot conditions combined with work activity, humidity, and inappropriate clothing.
Symptoms include loss of concentration, muscle cramps, heat rashes, fainting, exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Tim, a barrister in Blake Morgan’s employment law team, says that employers may not be aware of the potential dangers of heat stress, and of the legal consequences of failing to keep staff at a reasonable temperature.
He said: ‘It may be our lack of familiarity with hot weather which poses the greatest risk as many employers will be ignorant of the dangers and perhaps blissfully unaware that any failure to control workplace temperatures could put them in breach of the criminal law.’
Tim reminds employers that they have a legal obligation under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace.
He added: ‘Employers would be well-advised to conduct a suitable and sufficient assessment of the heat risks faced by their employees – as they are obliged to do by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
‘These risk assessments should consider the type of activity being conducted and the equipment and clothing provided to employees.
‘Appropriate steps need to be taken to reduce or control the risks posed by heat stress.
‘These steps could include alteration of the work processes, enhanced breaks, increased use of fans and improvements to clothing and equipment.’