Staying Cool at Work During Hot Weather

Sunshine can be a rarity in the UK, so when the hot weather does come along, we’re often completely unprepared.

The biggest issue for many is how to keep temperatures down at work – especially when working outside or in hot and stuffy formal clothing.

Last summer, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) saw a surge in people seeking hot weather advice. As temperatures went over 40°C in July, the number of heat-related concerns reported to HSE almost doubled.

So what are your employer’s responsibilities when temperatures soar? And what can you do to keep yourself cool at work? We’ve explained more in this guide.

What is the UK law on working in hot weather?

In the UK, there is no law around maximum or minimum temperatures for working. This is because every workplace is different, with some generating heat through activity. For example, in foundries or bakeries.

But employers do have a responsibility to keep you safe. Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, they must provide a ‘reasonable’ indoor temperature for workers. Employers should decide on a reasonable temperature by:

  • Assessing the risk to employees
  • Acting on any findings by making reasonable changes – such as relaxing the dress code
  • Using the HSE heat stress checklist if workers are at risk from extreme temperatures

If you work outdoors, your employer must take measures to protect you from the effects of working in extreme heat. For instance, if you work on a construction site, your employer should be providing rest facilities where you can cool down.

Can I refuse to work in extreme heat?

As there are no legally recognised maximum working temperatures in the UK, employees cannot refuse to work based on the heat alone. If you were to leave work as a result of feeling unwell in the hot weather, this would be treated as standard sick leave.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has pushed for the government to introduce a maximum temperature of 30°C – or 27°C for those doing strenuous work. They’ve argued that this would make it easier for employers and workers to know when action must be taken. But this has not yet resulted in any law change.

Top tips for staying cool at work

With vague regulations surrounding temperature and working conditions in the UK, you may find yourself struggling in the heat at work. These are our top ten tips for keeping cool:

  1. Drink lots of water – staying hydrated helps your body regulate its temperature
  2. Eat smaller meals – larger meals force your body to warm up to process them
  3. Find the shade – if you work outside, try to keep in the shade as much as possible
  4. Keep blinds closed – if you work in an office with lots of windows, closing the blinds could help to keep your desk area cool
  5. Rinse your wrists under cold water – keeping pulse points cool helps to keep your body temperature down
  6. Take deep breaths – this can help to naturally decrease your body temperature
  7. Use a hand-held or desk fan – just make sure to turn it off when you’re not using it or it could lose its effectiveness
  8. Wear clothes made of cotton – fabrics such as wool or polyester will only make you warmer
  9. Wear light colours – darker colours will only keep the heat in
  10. Wet an item of clothing – this may not always be possible but where it is, it could help you to stay cool

If the heat is distracting you from your work, the best thing to do is let your employer know. They have a responsibility to make sure you’re comfortable, so it’s always worth raising your concerns.


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