There is a higher risk of accidents at work while the UK is basking in a spell of hot weather, a group of MPs has warned.
They are calling for a new law that requires bosses to send workers home if a workplace temperature rises above 30C.
Labour MP Linda Riordan has put forward the proposal in a parliamentary early-day motion which has been signed by 17 MPs since it was tabled earlier in the week.
Accidents at work
There can be a serious impact on employees’ “health and wellbeing” in workplaces ranging from industrial bakeries to schools where workers are often subjected to unreasonably high temperatures, the motion warns.
As well as the threat to health, employers may be concerned that there are also increased risks of accidents at work – and potentially a higher number of
personal injury claims – as a result of the conditions.
Ms Riordan said the elevated temperatures in offices and factories can lead to “discomfort, stress, irritability and headaches… extra strain on the heart and lungs, dizziness and fainting and heat cramps due to loss of water and salt”.
Heat ‘affects attention spans’
The risk of accidents at work is increased as the conditions adversely affect employees’ levels of alertness and attention spans, she added.
Although an official code of practice introduced in 1992 as part of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations decrees workplace temperatures should not normally fall below 16C – or 13C if the work involves severe physical effort – there is no suggested maximum temperature.
The guidelines only call on employers to take “all reasonable steps” to ensure there is “a reasonably comfortable temperature”.
Unions back maximum workplace temperature
A proposed legal maximum temperature of 30C – or 27C for those doing strenuous work – has won the backing of the TUC and Ms Riordan is calling on the Government to enshrine these figures in law.
She believes making them law would “resolve uncertainty” for employers when faced with hot conditions.
The Halifax MP’s motion has been signed by 12 Labour backbenchers, two SDLP MPs and one MP each from the Liberal Democrats, DUP and Plaid Cymru.
Early day motions have no prospect of becoming law and are not debated on the floor of the House but they are designed to demonstrate MPs’ level of concern about a given issue.
Date Published: July 19, 2013
Author: David Brown