UK Heatwave Strikes Again: What to Do When It’s Too Hot to Work

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Photo Credits - George Chandrinos

Another UK heatwave has begun this week as we enter September. Many thought that during this period in the year, we would start having cooler temperatures and layering up clothes, but the weather this week has delayed the start of that. Temperatures are expected to rise just above 30 degrees Celsius for many regions in the UK.

The ongoing high temperatures have had a significant impact, to the point where the Met Office and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) released a health warning. This warning is released as a reminder for individuals in the impacted areas to remain aware of their health during the period of hot weather.

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UK Heatwave: UKHSA and Met Office Warning

The UKHSA and the Met Office have jointly issued an amber heat-health alert (HHA) for 8 regions in England. These regions are:

1. London

2. South East

3. South West

4. North West

5. East Midlands

6. West Midlands

7. East of England

8. Yorkshire and the Humber

Under the new HHA system introduced by the UKHSA and the Met Office, an amber alert means that the weather’s effects are expected to impact the entire healthcare system. This includes an increased risk to the health of individuals aged over 65 years or those with pre-existing health conditions, such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Additionally, it may also have implications for the broader population’s health.

Can I Leave Work if it’s Too Hot?

The short answer to this is no, you cannot refuse work just because of the heat. However, employers do have a duty of care over their employees.

Even though there isn’t a specific legal limit for workplace temperatures, you have the right to refuse work if you believe your working conditions are unsafe and pose a serious risk to your health and safety. This falls under the Employment Rights Act 1966.

It’s a good idea to have an open conversation with your employer about your concerns before resorting to refusing work. Often, discussing the issues can lead to finding a solution that works for both parties.

However, if your employer fails to follow safety regulations outlined in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, it may be necessary to seek help from a health and safety representative.

If you’re a trade union member, they can also offer valuable support and guidance on addressing an unsafe work environment.

Keeping Safe During the Heatwave

It is advised by the UKHSA for the public to be sensible when enjoying the sun and look out for those who may be vulnerable. Further, they also highlighted the importance of staying hydrated during the heatwave.

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Below are more recommendations of things to do during the UK heatwave:

1. Recognise the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and know what to do if you or someone else experiences them.

2. Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day, typically between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

3. If you plan to engage in physical activities like exercise or walking the dog, opt for cooler times of the day, like the morning or evening.

4. Keep your home cool by closing windows and curtains in rooms that receive direct sunlight.

5. When heading outdoors, wear suitable clothing, including a hat and sunglasses, seek shade, and remember to apply sunscreen regularly.

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