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Refuing to work in extreme heat – what are employee rights?

If you’re concerned that your work environment is unsafe or you haven’t been provided with the right equipment for your working conditions, John Johnston, head of e-commerce at Workwear Express has highlighted all of the safety regulations and guidelines that should be followed, and the rights you have as an employee.

With a heatwave forecast across the UK this week, with highs of 32C in some parts, working in the hot weather can not only be uncomfortable, but also dangerous if the appropriate measures aren’t taken to ensure your health and safety. Sun-related health issues can occur, from burns, to heat stroke. 

As part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are required to provide a safe working environment, which includes keeping employees protected from weather-related hazards.

If you’re concerned that your work environment is unsafe or you haven’t been provided with the right equipment for your working conditions, John Johnston, head of e-commerce at Workwear Express has highlighted all of the safety regulations and guidelines that should be followed, and the rights you have as an employee. 

Safety Regulations and Guidelines 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
As part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1972, your employer must provide appropriate PPE to those working outside in hot conditions. 

Carrying Out a Risk Assessment
It is also essential that your employer has conducted a risk assessment of the environment before any work takes place. This should consider the weather and potential hazards and safety issues that could occur, for instance the effect of extreme temperatures on the well-being of employees.

Employee Training
Workers should be given correct training and information on how to work safely in hot weather. This not only includes how to carry out your job in these weather conditions, but also how to recognise the symptoms of weather-related health risks.

Safe Processes
Every employee should be aware of the correct process or safe working practices to follow when working in the heat and sun. 

Sheltered Breaks
During hot weather, your employer should also provide access to a sheltered space for breaks to allow you to get out of the heat and cool down your body temperature after long periods in the sun. 

First Aid
Warm weather can increase the likelihood of accidents and health-related hazards, such as sunburn, overheating, and heat stroke, so your employer must have a first aid kit on site, alongside a trained first aider that can tend to any injuries or health issues. 

When can you refuse to work?

Unfortunately, no matter how warm the weather is, you can’t refuse to work solely because of the heat, as there is no law specifying a maximum temperature for a workplace. However, you have the right to refuse to work if you think that your working conditions are unsafe or there is a serious risk to your health and safety – which comes under the Employment Rights Act 1966. 

It is better to take a more proactive approach to the problem and discuss your concerns and issues with your employer first of all, to see if you can come to a solution before refusing to work. 

However, if you find that your employer is being neglectful and has failed to follow the correct processes and regulations that fall under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, you might want to seek further help from a health and safety representative. 

You can also turn to your trade union if you are a member, for extra support and advice about how to approach the situation of working in an unsafe environment. 

https://www.workwearexpress.com/

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