The temperature recorded on the 1st July this year was an unbelievable 37.6°c, making it the hottest July day since records began. And if you breathed a sigh of relief when the temperature dropped back to more manageable levels, you might want to think again – forecasters are predicting a second heatwave at the end of July, which could even surpass Britain’s all-time highest temperature of 38.5°c.
But while the thought of sunny days spent lazing in the sunshine is a great one, for most of us, the reality is a little different. A lot of our time during the summer will be spent at work; and while we’d all rather be on a beach somewhere, it’s still important that we take care of our health while we are at work during very hot weather conditions. Because hot spells are much rarer in the UK, a lot of our offices are not set up for high heat, so we need to be mindful.
While there is no law or official guidance for a maximum temperature in the workplace, employers have a duty of care towards their staff and are legally obliged to provide a workplace that’s well ventilated and not subject to extreme temperatures. The Health and Safety Executive suggests that if more than 10% of staff in an air conditioned office (or 15% in a naturally ventilated office) are complaining about being too hot, a thermal comfort risk assessment should be made. And making this assessment isn’t just for comfort reasons – research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that employee productivity decreases once temperatures climb higher than 23°c.
However, even without a thermal comfort risk assessment, it is important for individuals to take steps to ensure that they aren’t putting themselves at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Below are a few simple tips to help you look after yourself in the hot weather:
- Replace your morning cup of a tea with a glass of cold water. The caffeine in tea can dehydrate you, but it’s important to keep taking in liquids throughout the day even if you don’t feel thirsty.
- Wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing. If your workplace has a strict dress code, such as suits for men, try speaking to your employer to find a solution which works for both of you.
- Eat a light lunch – heavy meals add heat to your body and will make you lethargic.
- If installing air conditioning is out of your employer’s budget, ask them if you can put some desk fans around the office – they help circulate air around the office and keep you cool.
For more information and advice on how to cope with extreme temperatures at work, you can visit the Fit for Work advice hub.