A number of organisations, including several trade unions and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), have campaigned for a statutory maximum temperature for a number of years. As the TUC has stated, high temperature is a significant health issue and can cause dizziness, fainting and heat cramps, as well as increasing the risk of heat stroke or collapse. It can also lead to loss of concentration and increased tiredness, making workers more likely to put themselves or others at risk.
In 2009, the previous Labour government asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to review the case for a maximum workplace temperature. While the report that the HSE produced was inconclusive, the then government stated that it was still actively considering the issue of a maximum workplace temperature. However, in the last Parliament the Coalition Government stated that it had no plans to set a maximum temperature, arguing that a single figure would be inappropriate.
Workers nevertheless need to be protected against injury, illness and death at work, and workplace health and safety legislation is essential. I believe it is important that we review issues such as workplace temperatures and prior to the 2015 general election, my Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to review excessive workplace temperatures.
The current government should consider such a review.
Employers do already have a duty under the current regulations to ensure that workplaces remain at a reasonable temperature and to consult with employees and their representatives to establish sensible measures to cope with hot weather.
I am also concerned that much of the legislation providing protection for UK workers comes from the EU and that following the vote to leave in June’s referendum, the government will not provide equivalent or better protection under UK law. Indeed, workplace temperature is regulated by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which were originally introduced to give effect in Great Britain to the requirement of EC Directive 89/654/EEC concerning the minimum safety and health requirements for the workplace. I believe the UK government must ensure that workplace protections remain in place after the UK has left the EU.
I will continue to monitor this issue and will work to support workers’ health and safety and to reduce the toll of workplace injuries and ill-health.