Can you leave work if it gets too hot?

Temperatures are heading above 20C and the week is set to get hotter, with this weekend set to be a scorcher.

But could the rising mercury mean you get even more time off work – how hot does it have to be before your boss is obliged to shut down your factory or office?

A spokesman for the TUC union said: “When the workplace gets too hot it is more than just an issue about comfort.

“If the temperature goes too high then it can become a health and safety issue. If people get too hot, they risk dizziness, fainting, or even heat cramps.

“In very hot conditions the body’s blood temperature rises. If the blood temperature rises above 39°C, there is a risk of heat stroke or collapse.

“Delirium or confusion can occur above 41°C. Blood temperatures at this level can prove fatal and even if a worker does recover, they may suffer irreparable organ damage.”

The TUC wants to make it illegal to keep people at work indoors if the temperature is above 30°C, reports The Mirror, and put protection in place for people working outside or driving for a living too.

Sadly, that’s not happened yet – but the good news is that there are rules that can let you leave an office that’s too hot, just no official maximum temperature.

“An employer must provide a working environment which is, as far as is reasonably practical, safe and without risks to health. In addition, employers have to assess risks and introduce any necessary prevention or control measures,” the TUC explains.

The Health and Safety Executive provide the regulatory framework for work place health and safety in Britain.

A spokesman said: “A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries,.

“The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.

“However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.”

Employers also have to provide “clean, fresh air” as well as keep temperatures at a comfortable level.

So how hot does it have to be to complain?

The good news is that, because there’s no official limit, you can get action taken whatever the temperature as long as people think it’s uncomfortable.

“If a significant number of employees are complaining about thermal discomfort, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment,” the HSE explains.

If you’re a more vulnerable employee – for example have a thyroid imbalance or are undergoing the menopause, or need to wear protective equipment at work so can’t take of layers – that also has to be taken into account.

So the answer is simple – if you’re uncomfortable, tell your boss. If enough people do then they have to act.

You can see more information here.


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