July 2019 - Feeling hot hot hot! Workplace Temperatures during the Heatwave

With a record heatwave this summer we have been receiving a large number of enquiries regarding maximum temperatures for the workplace particularly with regards to outdoors work. With best practice in mind companies have wanted to know how hot is ‘too hot’ for performers to be asked to work in?

As outlined in last week’s article in the Independent, employers have a legal obligation to ensure that the temperature in the workplace is “reasonable”, as outlined by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Unlike the lower limit there is no specified upper limit, however with summers in the UK getting hotter and temperatures reaching 39C last week, a number of organisations have presented recommendations and guidelines for companies to ensure safe working conditions continue throughout a heatwave.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) suggests a maximum temperature of 30C should be set by employers, with a maximum of 27C put into place for those doing strenuous work. They state that it is usually accepted that people work best at temperatures between 16°C and 24°C, although this can vary depending on the kind of work being done.

This opinion is reflected in Equity’s ‘Fit to Dance Space Charter’. In this guide for the condition of rehearsal spaces for dancers, Equity recommend that where there is an ability to control the temperature it does not drop below 18.3°C or rise above 24°C. They add that it is essential that there is accessible and quickly responsive controls of ventilation and heating systems within dance studios.

In their guide for ‘Working in a Heatwave in a Theatre or Outdoor Spaces’ published last year, Equity provide 10 practical steps an organisation can take to ensure the safety of their performers which includes re-assessing any heavy or particularly warm costumes, re-working particularly strenuous movement and minimising the use of the lighting rig – which increases heat on the stage.
Inspired this guide and recognising our member’s commitment to creating safe and productive working conditions, we are encouraging organisations to consider having a staff well-being policy. Below are some suggestions of what you can do when things get a bit too hot:

• Ensure staff/company members know who to talk to if they are you are feeling unwell due to the heat.
• Consider flexible working, including working from home and travel arrangements. Often staff/company members have to travel to work in overcrowded tubes, trains or buses, allowing flexibility on start/finish times can help.
• Avoid scheduling staff/company members meetings/strenuous work during the hottest part of the day if possible.
• Give extra rest breaks.
• Ensure access to cool fresh water and promote staying rehydrated by providing water jugs in the office and rehearsal/ performance space.
• If you can, provide air conditioning or fans in offices and rehearsal/ performance spaces. Ask a member of venue staff to turn these on as early as possible to regulate the temperature before people start working.
• Allow for relaxed dress codes. Suits and ties aren’t often seen in arts venues, however, promote lose, lightweight clothing and consider costumes and stage management dress in terms of thickness etc.
• Insulate exposed pipes that can become hot.
• Shade windows with blinds or curtains.
• Move workstations away from exposure to the sun or those that frequently become hot.
• Provide thermometers so that workers can keep an eye on the temperature.
• If outside, avoid working in direct sunshine, try and find shaded areas. If needing to be in direct sunlight, provide guidance on avoiding exposure to harmful UV radiation and provide sun cream/hats/etc.