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Feeling the Heat: Heatwave Help at Work


The extraordinary level of sudden heat this June is causing concern for many businesses; so much so that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has encouraged employers to take action to ensure that their staff our protected during the periods of extreme hot weather that we are now facing. 

Much like in July 2022, this June we are experiencing quite the rise in temperature. The UK is ill-equipped for it: unlike other places where we might venture on holiday, Britain’s buildings are generally built to keep the heat in rather than deter it. As a result, and in combination with our higher level of humidity, heatwaves in the United Kingdom can feel much more oppressive than similar conditions in our European cousin’s countries.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued some key advice to employers to help guide people through those sweaty summer months while keeping your employees safe and protected.

What Can Businesses Do?

Among the simple steps that the HSE has issued to businesses are:

Ensuring workplace windows can be opened or closed

It may sound trivial, but actually having windows that can be opened or closed at will can make a huge difference to the quality of life for you and your colleagues. All too often, businesses’ windows are sealed shut, creating a stifling atmosphere with little to no fresh air. Ensure that yours are kept open, and that there is a good enough degree of air circulation to keep your workplace fresh.

Use blinds or reflective film on workplace windows

Another relatively easy way to prevent excess heat is to have blinds or reflective areas on the windows of your workplace. Cheap to buy and simple to install, this is one of the most cost-effective ways to ensure that your work environment remains cool in the summer.

Rearrange the workplace

Even if you do manage the two previous steps, it can nonetheless be difficult to avoid the sun’s glare. Consider moving workstations away from direct sunlight or any source of heat completely.

Insulate Hotspots

Machinery can often overheat, especially in times of increased temperature. Putting insulation materials around hot pipes or machinery can help prevent heat from escaping into the wider workplace, and may even prevent an accident.

Flexible Working

With today’s digital workspace, flexible working is now more of an option than ever before. Consider offering your employees revised working hours so that they can operate at cooler times of the day to maximise performance and avoid the hot hours.

Fresh water

It’s important to stay hydrated at the best of times, even more so when the sun beams brightest. Ensure that your employees have a ready supply of fresh drinking water at all times.

Relax Dress Codes

Work uniforms can often be stifling, especially if they are not designed with hot weather in mind. Consider relaxing your dress codes so that your employees can feel more comfortable if possible.

Personal Protective Equipment

Providing PPE that works for the current weather is a crucial aspect of many jobs, but it is also important to consider where and when it is appropriate to remove such equipment during break periods. Ideally this should occur in shaded areas, and for long enough to cool off properly.

Sharing Information

Perhaps the most important thing you can do in your workplace is to foster and encourage an open environment wherein everyone is free to speak and share information regarding heat stress and what to do if you find that someone is affected by it. Too often, employees will continue to work despite their lack of capacity for it simply because of the stigma attached to taking time off. An effective counter to this is making sure that employees know that they have the personal freedom to raise issues should the need arise.

James Dawson

James is our resident wordsmith and has many years of experience in writing about a huge variety of topics from HR to Occupational Health and beyond. He has been published in numerous magazines and news outlets, and especially enjoys researching and analysing the current trends in the modern business world.