Friday, 12 Aug 2022

Too hot to work! Union demands new law on maximum temperature for staff as UK boils in 40C

Heatwave: How to cope in extreme temperatures

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Workers should not have to cope with temperatures higher than 25C, according to the union which represents more than 500,000 members. Its call comes as weather forecasters warn parts of England could see a record high of 40C (104F) over the next two days.

The GMB’s health and safety officer, Lynsey Mann, said: “This hot weather is great for being on a sun lounger, but if you’re trying to work through it’s no joke.

“Bosses need to do everything possible to keep workplaces cool and, more importantly, safe.”

She continued: “Ultimately, there needs to be a legal maximum working temperature.”

The union is urging bosses to relax dress codes during heatwaves as well as provide more sun cream, water and rest breaks.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady told the BBC: “We all love it when the sun comes out, but working in sweltering conditions in a baking shop or stifling office can be unbearable and dangerous.”

She urged businesses to allow office staff to work from home or to change their hours so they can avoid travelling during rush hour.

There is no law on the minimum or maximum temperature, though the Government recommends that the temperature in all indoor workplaces be “reasonable” during working hours.

Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests a minimum of 16C or 13C if employees are doing physical work.

Unite the Union said employers should ensure workers showing signs of heat exhaustion stop work and are given time to recover without losing pay.

The rise in temperatures has forced the UK Health Security Agency to issue a level 4 heat-health alert – described as an “emergency”.

Meanwhile, the Met Office has issued the UK’s first red extreme heat warning.

Both warnings span Monday to Wednesday.

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Parts of England will experience hotter weather than holiday destinations such as Athens, Malaga and the Bahamas, with the Midlands predicted to see highs of 37C, East Anglia with 36C and the north west and north east with 33C.

New records were broken in Wales and Northern Ireland on Sunday.

Hawarden, a village in north Wales, reached 33C while Armagh in Northern Ireland was 27.7C.

Tuesday is predicted to be even hotter, with temperatures possibly reaching 40C, which would be a new record for England.

College of Paramedics chief executive Tracy Nicholls said the ferocious heat the UK is predicted to experience over the next few days could have a detrimental effect on Britons.

Ms Nicholls told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “This isn’t like a lovely hot day where we can put a bit of sunscreen on, go out and enjoy a swim and a meal outside.

“This is serious heat that could actually, ultimately, end in people’s deaths because it is so ferocious. We’re just not set up for that sort of heat in this country.”

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told the same programme people should be resilient enough to “enjoy the sunshine”.

He said: “Obviously there is some common-sense practical advice we are talking about – stay hydrated, stay out of the sun at the hottest times, wear sun cream – those sorts of things.

“We ought to enjoy the sunshine and actually we ought to be resilient enough through some of the pressures it will place.”

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