The retail workers’ union in the United Kingdom is calling for a work limit on exceptionally hot days and is calling on employers to take better action to prevent “uncomfortably high temperatures” in the workplace.
The union believes that the maximum working temperature for those employed indoors should be 30°C, while those involved in ‘strenuous work’ should be subjected to a lower limit at 27°C.
The UK does not currently have a legal maximum working temperature.
The Health and Safety Executive, workplace safety enforcer, has previously explained that in some workplaces, “a meaningful maximum temperature cannot be given,” due to the nature of the work, for example in foundries and glassworks.
Britain has workplace regulations that stipulate that the temperature in all indoor workplaces “shall be reasonable”
The general secretary of the retail workers’ union, Usdaw, Paddy Lillis, explained that: “as temperatures rise this week we want workers to know that employers are expected to take reasonable steps to deal with uncomfortably high temperatures. Special care needs to be taken as workplaces implement necessary social distancing and coronavirus safety measures.”
“Now that fans cannot be used, indoor workers need cool drinks, more frequent breaks, relaxed dress code, along with opportunities to remove masks and face visors,” he added.
He also emphasised that temperatures above 24°C could spark heat exhaustion.
In Australia, the WHS legislation requires that “where possible, the indoor workers’ environment to be maintained in a range between 18° and 23° C (depending on the type of work being done).”
Unions across Australia for construction, mining and other outdoor trades largely have EBAs in place that allows work to be halted at certain temperatures. In Victoria, for example, that limit is 35° C, whereas Western Australia is above 37.5° C.