As the mercury rises, with the Met Office warning of well above-average temperatures this week likely to exceed 30C, retail trade union Usdaw is calling for a legal maximum workplace temperature to protect workers’ health and safety.

Extreme temperatures, both very hot and very cold, are a familiar problem for workers. While there is a legally enforceable minimum workplace temperature, there is not a corresponding maximum enforceable temperature.

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “As temperatures are set to hit the mid-30s this week and the Met Office is warning that Friday could be one of the hottest June days on record, we want workers to know that employers are expected to take reasonable steps to deal with uncomfortably high temperatures.

“Outdoor workers need sun and heat protection, some sort of shade if possible, suitable clothing, sunscreen of factor 30 or above, water to prevent dehydration and frequent breaks. Indoor workers need cool drinks, more frequent breaks, relaxed dress code, along with opportunities to remove and replace face coverings.

“Usdaw wants to see a legal maximum working temperature introduced of 30°C – or 27°C for those doing strenuous work – with employers obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24°C.

“Experts say the comfort zone is normally in the region of 16°C to 24°C. As the temperature rises above this zone, heat exhaustion starts. People start to suffer loss of concentration, there are increases in accidents and loss of productivity. Symptoms include irritability, dizziness, headaches, nausea and fainting.

“For better health and safety in your workplace, make sure you’re in a union and talk to your rep. Usdaw produces a helpful advice leaflet on this issue – Keep Your Cool Tackling Heat Stress at Work.”

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