Health and safety in the heat

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has published guidance to help businesses overcome the challenges as temperatures reach record levels.

There is no legal requirement for a maximum working temperature, but employers should adhere to health and safety laws that necessitate a comfortable working environment and the provision of clean and fresh air.

As the UK records some of its highest temperatures for a decade, this is an ideal time for employers to explore the potential benefits of flexible working for their staff to minimise the hot weather’s impact.

Severe weather, such as temperatures significantly above the average, brings into focus the impact weather can have on businesses and their ability to trade. Recent FSB research suggests two thirds of our members have been negatively affected by severe weather in the last three years – costing on average £7000 for each small business affected.

Despite these risks and the impact it can have on their trading, only 25 per cent of businesses have a resilience plan in place that specifically includes severe weather.

Mike Cherry, FSB National Chairman, said: “In many businesses, the hot weather will boost sales but it is important that firms are prepared for the adverse effects of extreme weather too.

“For those employees without air conditioning, experiencing travel chaos to and from work or who work outside, employers will need to be mindful and take action. Solutions are available to every type of business and we hope that our advice will assist our members in finding the right way forward for them.”

Steps employers should consider taking for extremely hot weather include:

1) Explore the possibility of flexible working, eg working from home, avoiding travelling during rush hour.
2) Ensure a sufficient resilience plan is in place.
3) Where appropriate, provide air-cooling devices.
4) Make sure shade is available to employees; this may require the use of blinds, reflective film or moving desks.
5) Allow additional breaks for employees to cool down.
6) Provide extra facilities, for example extra water coolers to ensure staff stay hydrated.
7) Where possible and health and safety dependent, employers could relax formal dress codes.
8) Identify employees particularly at risk from heat and ensure specific precautionary measures are in place for them.