When it comes to Workplace Health and Safety regulations, it can often feel like there are many difficult challenges to overcome. However, one of the most important ways of meeting the current official standards is surprisingly easy to achieve. The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 applies to every type of workplace, including the self-employed and small businesses with fewer than five employees. Its guidelines state that all first aid kits should meet BS 8599-1 standards. Fortunately, rather than having to pore through the official BS 8599-1 legislation, you can simply buy first aid equipment which is already designed to meet the required standards.
Whilst you will be able to find first aid posters in almost every workplace, you may not find so many actual employees if one MP gets her way! The UK has experienced a number of heat waves over the past few weeks and temperatures have regularly reached 30°C plus. However, MP Linda Riordan has tabled a motion in the House of Commons saying that employees should be sent home if the temperature reaches more than 30°C.
As things stand, Workplace Regulations have minimum temperature standards for those who do jobs which involve severe physical effort. There is no maximum temperature limit though, which has led to the Halifax MP requiring a debate about the clarification of the law. Ms Riordan believes that ministers should “resolve uncertainty for employers about their duty to combat excessive heat in the workplace by introducing a maximum working workplace temperature of 30°C (86°F) and of 27°C (81°F) for those doing strenuous work”.
Ms Riordan also added that overheated factories and offices can cause “discomfort, stress, irritability and headaches …extra strain on the heart and lungs, dizziness and fainting and heat cramps due to loss of water and salt”, and the resulting reduction in alertness and attention spans can contribute to workplace accidents and fatalities, said Ms Riordan. The early day motion has attracted 17 signatures from fellow MPs so far.
It is unlikely that such a scenario will ever be allowed to happen, but there are ways in which workplaces can help improve the happiness and productivity levels of their workforce when operating in sweltering conditions. It is essential to stay well hydrated in hot weather, so employers should make sure that their staff has plenty of opportunities to consume hot drinks or water. Common sense is a big help. If the office is really hot, keep the windows open or use a fan if there aren’t any air conditioning facilities.
Be ready with first aid supplies if somebody does succumb to the heat. Every workplace should have a trained first aider who will be able to respond appropriately if a person falls ill. Most people are able to muddle along and complain about the weather without any problems. However, it is always reassuring for employees to know that they will be looked after properly if things go wrong. Ensuring that you have the correct medical supplies on base makes perfect sense.