TUC demands employers take action to protect workers amid high temperatures
With high temperatures set to continue for the next few days, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) is urging employers to ensure the safety of their staff from the sun and heat.
The TUC has called on the UK government to introduce legislation on maximum working temperatures, amidst warnings about the health risks posed by hot weather.
Workers in the heat can face dehydration, muscle cramps, rashes, and even fainting, with the most severe cases leading to loss of consciousness.
Alarmingly, outdoor workers are three times as likely to develop skin cancer, according to the TUC.
To combat these risks, the TUC advises employers to take a number of steps.
These include providing sunscreen, facilitating flexible working hours to avoid the harshest conditions of the rush hour commute, and considering remote work options.
Keeping workplace buildings cool through measures such as opening windows, using fans, and relocating staff away from windows or heat sources is also crucial.
The TUC is further encouraging employers to prepare their buildings for increasingly warmer weather by installing ventilation, air-cooling and energy efficiency measures, as well as temporarily relaxing dress codes.
Frequent breaks, provision of cold drinks, engaging in dialogue with staff and their union representatives, and ensuring sensible working hours and shaded areas for outdoor workers are also key considerations.
Currently, the UK law does not specify a maximum working temperature, although it mandates that indoor workplaces should maintain a ‘reasonable’ temperature.
The TUC is seeking amendments that would require employers to lower temperatures if they rise above 24 degrees Celsius and workers feel uncomfortable.
They also recommend that employers be obliged to provide sun protection and water.
TUC’s proposals also include introducing an absolute maximum indoor temperature of 30 degrees Celsius, or 27 degrees for those in strenuous jobs, to indicate when work should cease.
As climate change brings higher temperatures to the UK, TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak stresses the need for a governmental plan on how to adapt and protect workers.
“Working in sweltering conditions can be unbearable and dangerous – whether it’s in an overheated shop, a baking office or outdoors in the direct sun,” he says, further advocating for cooler indoor workplaces, relaxed dress codes and flexible working hours.
The provision of regular breaks, fluids, sunscreen, and appropriate protective clothing for outdoor workers is also crucial, he added.
- The TUC is providing resources to workers on how to adjust workplaces to cope with extreme heat: Too hot, too cold – Too hot, too cold (tuceducation.org.uk)
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