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Employers urged to cool down their workplaces and their staff

17 July 2013

With temperatures soaring recently many workplaces have been unbearably hot with employees visibly wilting at their desks says the TUC.

The trade union body has said it would like to see the Health and Safety Executive amend the approved code of practice – which covers workplace conditions – so that it introduces a new maximum legal temperature at work.

Although workplace temperatures cannot legally fall below (160C), there is no upper limit. The TUC wants to see a maximum temperature of 300C – or 270C for those doing strenuous work – with employers asked to start thinking about cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 240C.

By allowing staff to leave their more formal office attire at home, employers who allow their workforce to loosen their ties, discard their jackets and remove their tights will undoubtedly get the thumbs up from their grateful employees during the hottest days of the summer, says the TUC.

The best and most simple way for staff to keep cool inside when it’s scorching outside is for them to be able to come to work in more casual clothing, says the TUC.

Employers who provide a cool and comfortable work environment are going to get more out of their staff when it’s sweltering, says the TUC. Workers who are unable to dress down in more appropriate summer clothing and who work in offices without air-conditioning, fans or a plentiful supply of cool drinking water are going to feel lethargic, and lack inspiration and creativity, the TUC warns.

The TUC accepts that for staff who regularly attend meetings with external clients or for those who deal with the public, or who wear a company uniform, it may not be acceptable to turn up at work in vest tops and shorts. But provided that employees are smartly turned out, it should be possible to agree on a dress code that both fits with the corporate image and helps keep staff cool.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: "Just when we thought summer had passed us by this year, the UK is now basked in sultry temperatures with the glorious summer weather set to continue for some time.

"But any prolonged hot and sunny spell is not going to be fun if you’re trapped inside an overheated workplace.

"Extreme heat can be just as harmful as extreme cold, and so long as there is no legal maximum working temperature, many of the UK’s workers are likely to be facing conditions that are not just personally unpleasant, but which are also likely to hit their productivity.

"As soon as the temperature starts to soar and begins to nudge 24OC, employers should be allowing their staff to dress down for summer and make sure that plenty of fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water is available to reduce the heat in offices, factories, shops, hospitals, schools and other workplaces across the country.”

To keep work cool, the TUC would like to see employers:

• Allow staff to adopt less formal attire – with jackets and ties out, and short sleeves, vest tops and shorts in

• Distribute fans to staff and provide portable air cooling cabinets

• Install air conditioning and maintain it regularly, so that it doesn’t break down during a heatwave

• Allow flexible working so that staff can have the option of coming in earlier and staying later to avoid the sweltering conditions of the rush hour commute

• Move desks away from windows, draw blinds or install reflective film

• Allow staff to take frequent breaks and provide a ready supply of cool drinks.