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Health and Safety: heatwave advice

Colleagues,

Today may be the hottest day ever recorded in the UK and bad as it might be outside, it’s even worse inside.

High temperatures at work

In the absence of any well-publicized advice from our employer on how to deal with high temperatures and humidity at work, the advice from the Health and Safety Executive is worth a look:

  •  add or remove layers of clothing depending on how hot or cold you are
  •  use a desk or pedestal fan to increase air movement
  •  use window blinds (if available) to cut down on the heating effects of the sun
  •  in warm situations, drink plenty of water (avoid caffeinated or carbonated drinks)
  •  if possible, work away from direct sunlight or sources of radiant heat
  •  take regular breaks to cool down in warm situations and heat up in cold situations
  •  raise the issue with your managers or, if you can, with your union or other workplace representatives

Go to the library

The University Librarian advises that:

… if it suits, colleagues are always very welcome to work in the Library – it is quiet and relatively cool as a building and open for all to use, with fixed PCs as well as wifi/power etc. (no need for cards at this time of year).

We now allow coffee and tea into the building, if they are in reusable cups, for those who prefer to work with caffeine.

TUC campaign

Given the effects of climate change, high temperatures in workplaces will only become worse for the foreseeable future. The TUC is campaigning on introducing regulations on high temperatures at work, which might at least give us the status of a chicken in a truck.

Your legal responsibility

In law (Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974), you are responsible for looking after yourself:

It shall be the duty of every employee while at work—

(a)to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work; and

If you believe that your working conditions are not safe, get in touch with a union representative.

Our employer’s responsibility

In the same legislation, our employer is responsible for making it possible for us to look after ourselves:

(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

(2)Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under the preceding subsection, the matters to which that duty extends include in particular—

(e)the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.

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