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Working in a heatwave: know your rights – and 5 top tips to stay cool

Practical ways to survive sweltering conditions while working

As the mercury rises, tension in the workplace also escalates as debates over the optimum air-con temperature heat up. You needn’t melt at your desk though, know your rights and follow these top tips from iNews.

Knowing your rights

When temperatures rise, employees and employers alike need to be aware of the regulations relating to workplace health and safety.

“For employers, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to ensure the safety and comfort of your employees – this could be anything from bringing in fans to instigating a work-from-home policy,” explains Peter Ames, head of strategy at officegenie.co.uk.

The TUC is calling for employers to:

  • allow staff to wear less formal clothes
  • ensure that outside workers have access to sunscreen
  • allow staff to take regular breaks
  • supply staff with cool drinks
  • distribute fans to employees
  • offer flexible working so staff can avoid travelling in rush hour

The TUC also wants a change in the law to allow workers go home if the temperature reaches 30C or 27C for people doing physical work. If employers don’t act when temperatures rise, they “could be at risk of legal action” notes Ames.  Although there is no maximum temperature for working in the UK, Workplace Regulations 1992 says that employers need to ensure that the working temperature is ‘reasonable’.

Ames recommends relaxing dress codes, providing access to cold water and controlling temperature using fans and air conditioning.

Here are the iNews top tips for staying cool:

  1. Use a desk fan – efficiently

Grab a desk fan and push the air OUT the door!

Richard Tucker of Leesa Sleep recommends the following for getting the most of your office fan. “Instead of just circulating the hot air within the room, point the fan out of a door to push stifling air out.”

  1. Keep the windows shut

As tempting as it may be to open windows during a baking hot day, it’s important to remain disciplined and keep windows and doors firmly shut, according to Tucker. “Keeping windows shut during the day stops the rooms heating up. “Instead, open a window in the evening rather than in the daytime, when the air outside is cooler.”

  1. Wear cotton clothes

Cool and breathable! If your employer implements a casual dress code, make sure you wear cotton clothing to keep you cool. Tucker says, “Just as natural fibres help you stay warm in winter, they also allow your body to breathe in summer. Switch your silk and synthetic work attire for cotton options to help promote ventilation. “Although all you may want to do is bare all, cotton clothing can actually keep you cooler than being in the nude, as natural fabrics draw sweat away from your body allowing you to feel more cool and comfortable.”

  1. Avoid tea, coffee and fizzy drinks

According to Doctor Kenny Livingstone, founder of ZoomDoc, a GP-to-door-service, you need to step away from the caffeine, “I cannot over-emphasise the importance of avoiding caffeine, tea and fizzy drinks in these sweltering temperatures,” explains Dr Livingstone. “Even frappuccinos on the way to work will dehydrate you – caffeine has a diuretic effect, which simply means it will expel more water from your system than normal. “Instead, replace these drinks with cool, fresh water.”

Alternatively, Livingstone suggests “a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink” which will ensure sustained energy release and replace electrolyes lost through sweating.

  1. Have cold and light meals

Richard Tucker recommends opting for cooler, lighter meals to help tackle the heat. “Try smaller, cold or raw food choices, which your body can digest with ease” Richard Tucker “If you’re tempted to tuck into an indulgent hot meal at lunchtime, think again. “The larger the meal, the more metabolic heat you generate as your body digests the food, with high protein meals being the worst offenders. “Try smaller, cold or raw food choices, which your body can digest with ease. This style of diet will also save on cooking and therefore helps to keep the house cool too.”

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