During a heatwave, employers have certain obligations towards their employees to ensure they do not suffer negative health impacts as a result of high temperatures.

As you can imagine, those who are most likely to suffer in high temperatures are those who work outside. The Inspectorate of Labour and Mines (ITM) has published a list of obligations that employers have towards employees working outside and in offices.

Some may not always remember it, but the ITM stipulates that employers must ensure both the safety and health of employees in all aspects related to work.

Outdoor work

The list of responsibilities for employees working outside is especially exhaustive, ranging from offering 'well-ventilated' shaded areas to providing cool drinking water at a rate of 'three to four litres a day, depending on the work in question.'

Beyond offering employees the opportunity to rest from the sun and stay hydrated, employers are also obliged to reduce work requiring 'prolonged and sustained physical activity' in contact with or near steel sheets or concrete or tar surfaces in full sunlight.

When it comes to work such as handling materials, employers must also provide 'mechanical aid'. Employers are also obliged to ensure employees are wearing appropriate clothing compatible with high temperatures.

Where no obligations are stipulated by the ITM, employers should prioritise the use of air-conditioned vehicles and adapt the use of protective equipment to the heat, with one example being moving from safety boots to safety shoes.

Office work 

The list of employer responsibilities may be far shorter when it comes to office workers, but does not limit itself to simply offering air conditioning.

The ITM's regulations stipulate that employers must insulate buildings with blinds, shutters, or sunscreen panels on glass walls. Walls and pipes that generate heat must also be insulated.

During heatwaves, employers must offer 'useful means' to fight against the heat, such as fans and air conditioned areas, where needed.

Finally, as with outdoor work, employers must offer a 'sufficient quantity' of drinking water. As for work tools that generate heat, these ought to be stored in ventilated rooms.