Retailers must make sure that staff do not overheat at work during the current spell of hot weather, union leaders have warned.
Retail union Usdaw has already lobbied the government for a change in the law to introduce a legally enforceable maximum working temperature after scores of union members complained about soaring summer heat.
But it said employers must play their part to make life more bearable for staff, before heat exhaustion leads to significant loss of concentration, increased accidents and a slump in productivity.
“Our members are telling us that temperatures on the shop floor in some stores can be unbearable for workers and shoppers alike,” said Usdaw general secretary John Hannett.
“The fact there is not a legally enforceable upper limit makes it very confusing for responsible employers and allows bad employers to ignore serious health and safety concerns.”
The simplest legal requirement for employers is to ensure there are enough thermometers in store for staff to know what temperature they are working in so that they can complain to managers well before the mercury climbs above 27c.
Other measures advised by Usdaw include:
Improve ventilation, including installing additional extractors in hot kitchen areas and placing extra fans around stores.
Provide cold drinks for staff, to significantly reduce the risk of dehydration as workers in hot areas can lose up to two pints of water an hour through sweating.
Relax restrictive dress codes which may contribute to excess body heat, and offer regular refreshment breaks to staff who might be overheating.
Remove or shield any heat sources in the workplace to bring air temperatures down – monitoring huge refrigerator units which are a big heat source in food stores.