As the UK experiences one of its hottest summers on record, the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is encouraging employers and employees to take simple, sensible steps to adapt to working in the heat.
In many cases, it’s easier to warm up people who work indoors than it is to cool them down, so individuals should play their part in keeping cool and drinking enough water.
While there are minimum legal temperatures for indoor workers in HSE guidance (13⁰C for physical work, 16⁰C for other staff), no guidance or regulations in the UK stipulate a maximum temperature.
So, how hot is too hot for indoor workers?
In many ways, this is down to personal preference, or even individuals’ biological responses. An environment that is too hot for one person may be just right for another. We can also learn a lot from good practices in hotter countries.
If a working environment is too warm, for instance, if it is around 30⁰C or higher, this can impact on the health and wellbeing of employees. Risks include dehydration and heatstroke.
Often heatstroke occurs because people don’t realise how much water their body is losing and they aren’t replacing it through drinking. The body will sweat less and people will experience headaches and won’t be able to concentrate as well.
The possible impairments such environments cause to people’s cognitive functions can give rise to safety risks, especially in jobs involving operating machinery.
Ways to keep your cool
There are many actions staff can and should take themselves to adapt to heat: