Working in Extreme Weather

The past few weeks have been extraordinary, not only with COVID 19 but also the weather — a week of record-breaking heat, followed by storms. Now autumn’s just around the corner, which is likely to bring more storms and, if 2020 lives up to its record, we may well have the country buried under snow before Christmas.

Extreme weather can bring many challenges, but one is that most of us have to carry on working through it. So, as an employer trying to treat your staff appropriately, how do you deal with extreme heat or cold?


Working Through Extreme Heat

The August heatwave was unprecedented for the UK, with records tumbling on all sides. However, if even half the climate predictions are accurate, this is liable to become much more normal in the years to come, so we’ll need to find ways of working through it.

The most obvious way of reducing workplace heat is to have an efficient air-conditioning system. However, while this tends to be normal in large workplaces, it might be considered an expensive luxury in an office for three or four people. However, as high temperatures become more normal, it might be a good idea to regard this as an essential start-up cost.

As an employer, you have a duty to take reasonable care of your employees’ welfare. Two of the more obvious things you can do in hot weather are to bring in electric fans and to make sure everyone in the workplace is able to keep themselves hydrated. If you have a water-cooler, make sure it’s kept topped up, while if you don’t, see that your staff always have access to chilled water.


Working Through Extreme Cold

We’re certainly more used to cold than heat in the UK, but still extreme cold is rare. Nevertheless, this too could well be increasing in the future. The complexity of climate is such that one plausible model suggests that global warming could lead to a mini-ice-age.

We’re on slightly surer footing here, since all workplaces should have adequate heating, though it’s equally important to make sure the warm air is able to circulate freely, rather than becoming stagnant and unhealthy. In an extreme cold spell, though, you might look at bringing in extra heating, perhaps individual heaters for each work station.

Just as access to chilled water is important in the heat, make sure all your staff can get regular hot drinks. You may also want to suspend any dress code, allowing your staff to bundle up in layers, or even in overcoats.


General Issues with Extreme Weather

Whether it’s too hot or too cold, it’s your legal duty as an employer to make sure your staffs’ health isn’t put at risk.  Whilst there’s no precise definition under law of when the temperature is too hot or too cold to work, you should assume that if several people complain it’s time to take action, including whether to close the workplace.

It’s worth remembering, of course, that individuals have very different reactions to hot and cold.  Although you can’t necessarily accommodate all the extremes, it’s advisable to try and find ways for every single person to be more comfortable in the workplace.

If you’re going to be able to make any necessary changes for coping with extreme temperature, you’ll need funds, and this might mean increasing your profitability.  Get in touch with us if you need help with that as our business is getting more customers for your business.

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