Politics Magazine

A Right to a Safe, Comfortable Workplace?

Posted on the 17 July 2013 by Thepoliticalidealist @JackDarrant

A bill has been presented to the House of Commons by Labour and Northern Ireland’s SDLP backbenchers, also backed outside Westminster by the TUC, proposing a legal maximum workplace temperature. In other words, offices and factories should close if it gets too hot. Under the proposals, those doing strenuous jobs would pack up on days with 27° weather, (and no, I’m not converting anything into fahrenheit, as I’m a metric man) whilst others would cease work at 30°. Advocates say that minimum temperatures already exist, and they have been invaluable in reducing accidents and avoiding health problems in workers.

This does not mean that the entire economy would shut down the second the mercury creeps above the 30 mark. We are referring to the indoors temperature of buildings. And even then, the impact will be limited, just as the “warmth floor” is. However, the safeguard would reduce industrial accidents and the range of health problems that manual work in the heat can cause, not least heatstroke and severe dehydration. It has been proven that death rates in the working population rise from 25° upwards.

But would we not impose a crippling financial burden on employers, with several days of lost productivity to recover? On the contrary, the move is likely to improve efficiency. It’s glaringly obvious that productivity collapses in heatwaves such as the one Britain is suffering. I, for example, am one of those people who cannot properly sleep during such weather, and spend the entire time in a fuzzy, lethargic state. That is of little harm in eduction, but could lead to costly or damaging errors at work.

So though the temperature ceiling legislation is unlikely to pass, I’d ask my MP why it can’t. It seems like a sound concept to me.

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