Too Hot to Work?

Too Hot to Work?

With high temperatures being forecasted throughout Ireland, including weather warnings issued for six counties, NISO takes a look at workers’ rights during hot weather conditions.

The weather alert has been issued for counties Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry, Limerick and Mayo and is in place until 7pm today, 28 June 2019. Met Eireann has advised that the solar UV is very high and people are should wear a strong SPF and stay out of the direct sunlight. Further hot weather has been forecasted for July. 

While the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations does provide guidelines for minimum workplace temperatures, there is no limit set out for maximum temperatures. The Health and Safety Authority elaborates on this omission as follows:

“The fact that a maximum temperature has not been specified in the Regulations does not mean that any temperature is acceptable. At high or uncomfortable temperatures, especially when not caused by temporary weather conditions, a means of cooling should be provided.”

Employers do have a duty of care for their employees during extreme weather conditions. The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 state that: “An employer shall ensure that during working hours, the temperature in rooms containing workstations is appropriate for human beings, having regard to the working methods being used and the physical demands placed on the employees”.

According to Ibec, it is important that employers respond to any employee representations and concerns about temperature. Ibec goes on to say that outside of certain extreme conditions and heavy, tiring operations, the actual risk to employees is one of comfort and is unlikely to affect health. In addition, where the temperature is linked to temporary weather conditions (within an average range for this region), again what is reasonably practicable for an employer will be limited as the risk will pass when conditions improve.

There are various ways that employers and employees can enhance comfort and safety during extreme weather conditions. 

For indoor/office workers:

  • Close blinds/curtains but open windows to enable a through draught.
  • If there is mechanical air conditioning in place, ensure the system is clean and well maintained. Close windows/doors while in use to enable it to function properly.
  • Provision of fans
  • Provision of cold drinks/water
  • Relaxation of formal dress codes

For outdoor workers:

  • Ensure sunscreen is applied especially if working outdoors for more than 20 minutes
  • Wear protective clothing, wide brimmed hats and avoid working in direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm.

There are some helpful resources for dealing with working in hot weather conditions: