Working in hot weather? Here’s how to keep your cool!

Temperatures can also rise in the workplace during the summer. This can be detrimental to the health of your employees and their productivity. When it really gets too hot, you as an employer are obliged to take protective measures. It’s also a good idea to have a preventive heat plan ready for uncomfortably hot weather.

How hot is too hot?

The statutory action values for working in heat are defined on the basis of the WBGT index and the physical workload. WBGT stands for Wet Bulb Globe Temperature. You can measure this index with a specific thermometer. It takes into account air temperature, humidity and radiant heat, e.g. from the sun or installations. Therefore, a high air temperature does not necessarily result in a high WBGT index.

A maximum WBGT value is determined depending on the severity of the physicalworkload. A risk analysis of the workplace helps you to estimate when the WBGT index might be exceeded. This analysis takes into account the orientation of your building, the number of windows and any ventilation systems. If the threshold limit values are exceeded, a number of mandatory measures must be taken:

  • Install a ventilation system
  • Offer refreshing beverages (unsweetened and non-carbonated) for free
  • Provide sunshades and headgear in the event of direct exposure to the sun
  • Give extra breaks during extreme heat.

The heat in the workplace can feel very uncomfortable and negatively impact the well-being and productivity of workers even before the WBGT index is exceeded. To avoid this, a preventive heat plan is a good idea.
 

Optional: draw up a preventive heat plan

A preventive heat plan lays down clear agreements in advance about which preventive measures must be taken and when (e.g. from a specific air temperature or during a heat wave). The risk analysis can be used as a basis for this. The advantage of such a heat plan is that you can take immediate action without prior discussions.

In addition to the compulsory measures in the event of heat, the heat plan can also contain the following elements:

  • Allow workers to start earlier and adjust their hours to the summer temperatures.
  • Plan the work so that the most strenuous (physical) work is carried out early in the morning or late in the evening, or postpone it until it becomes cooler.
  • Avoid unnecessary strenuous work or travel whenever possible and temporarily allow a slower working speed.
  • Allow suitable clothing (heat-reflective clothing, e.g., shorts and T-shirts. Please note that this is not always possible).
  • Keep sun blinds closed to prevent a building from heating up at daybreak.