National workers' union calls for mandatory maximum workplace temperatures

With temperatures in Britain having beaten previous records in last week's heatwave and more sweltering heat predicted for the end of July, workers' union the TUC is calling for the government to introduce maximum workplace temperatures.

There currently exists a legal minimum which dictates that no one should have to work in temperatures below 13C for strenuous work and 16C generally. But there's no equivalent dictate concerning maximum temperatures at work.

In light of the heatwave, which saw the mercury hit highs of 37C – 98F – during the first week of July 2015, the TUC is urging legislators to introduce a maximum working temperature of 30C, or 27C for people doing strenuous work.

When the heat reaches this maximum, employers should be forced to reduce the temperature using air conditioning, for example.

Those working in temperatures which exceed the maximum are at greater risk of injury, says the TUC. This is particularly the case for office workers, where lack of concentration can lead to nasty accidents – slips and trips are the major injury risk to this group.

Risks include:

  • Heat stroke and dehydration
  • Tiredness leading to accidents
  • Irritability and the threat of violence
  • Higher stress levels, with enhanced risks of mental and physical illness.

"Sweatshop conditions can push workers to boiling point. Extreme heat is as bad for you as extreme cold . There is no logic for having a minimum work temperature but no maximum. The TUC urges employers to be flexible in these tough temperatures. If they cannot reduce the heat at work they could relax dress codes, allow more breaks, and more shift rotation," commented TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber.

Steps to reduce heat at work should be taken voluntarily, with managers consulting with Safety Reps, said the union. "Workers deserve a legal right to be protected against the heat, a right that would also underpin voluntary measures," it added. According to the Telegraph, Britain is set to sizzle again at the end ofJuly, when temperatures could soar past 100F, beating the UK's hottest ever recorded temperatures.