Workplace Top Temperatures

This summer has been one of the hottest, with some new records being set across the UK. The TUC is calling for a legal duty on employers to protect workers from heat-related risk after the Met Office issued its first-ever extreme heat warning in July 2021.

Mika Minio-Paluello (who is the Policy Officer for Climate and Industry at the TUC), said in the Guardian that the UK should introduce

  • an absolute indoor maximum temperature of 30°C, with
  • a requirement for employers to introduce cooling measures when temperatures hit 24°C.

It was also observed that Germany, Spain and China had already introduced health and safety rules that set maximum temperatures and the UK should follow suit.

The TUC’s call to action comes as many low-paid workers are being put at increasing risk as temperatures soar during the summer. The TUC warns that during these periods of extreme heat many workers are harvesting fruit, packing deliveries in warehouses and distribution centres and delivering food and documents on bikes and mopeds. In many cases, they do not have regular breaks or access to drinking water.

Extreme heat can cause dehydration and exhaustion and can also increase the likelihood of industrial accidents because concentration levels are affected when temperatures significantly rise.

At present, there is no legal requirement for employers to set minimum or maximum working temperatures. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 outline particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Although it does recommend a minimum temperature of 16°C (13°C if employees are carrying out physical work), it does not specify a maximum temperature limit.