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Too Hot To Work

Published 12 Feb 2019

The recent heatwave across New Zealand often sparks questions from staff and management alike; how hot is too hot to work? And conversely the same can be asked about winter working conditions.

Working in extremes of temperature is a Health & Safety issue, and the Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) is not prescriptive in providing an acceptable range.

Businesses have legal obligations to provide safe and healthy environments for their workers and this includes working temperatures. Personal "thermal discomfort" can be about more than just air temperature alone.
Other issues that affect the working environment such as:
  • Humidity
  • Direct sunlight
  • Air movement
  • Clothing/Personal Protective Equipment
  • Physical activity
  • Radiant heat
Once we recognise working temperatures as an environmental Health & Safety issue it then must be managed in the same way as other workplace risks. Generally minimising techniques of isolation, engineering and administrative controls are adequate to keep everyone safe and productive. High working temperatures are directly linked worker fatigue and greatly increase the chance of accidents.
Some minimisation examples are:
  • Air conditioning/vents/fans
  • Shielding
  • Reduction in physical work
  • Increase rest breaks
  • Extra hydration