A number of organisations, including several trade unions and the Trades Union Congress (TUC), have campaigned on the issue of a maximum workplace temperature for a number of years.
The TUC has said that high temperature is a significant health issue and can cause dizziness, fainting and heat cramps, as well as increasing the risk of heat stroke or collapse. It can also lead to loss of concentration and increased tiredness, making workers more likely to put themselves or others at risk. I therefore agree that this is an important issue.
In 2009, the previous Labour Government asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to review the case for a maximum workplace temperature. While the report that the HSE produced was inconclusive, the then Government stated that it was still actively considering the issue of a maximum temperature. However, in the last Parliament the Coalition Government stated that it had no plans to set a maximum temperature, arguing that a single figure would be inappropriate. The current Conservative Government meanwhile argues that existing legislation and guidance on this issue is sufficient.
Workers nevertheless need to be protected against injury, illness and death at work, and workplace health and safety legislation is essential. I believe it is important that we review issues such as workplace temperatures. Prior to the 2015 general election, my Labour Shadow Frontbench colleagues committed to a review of excessive workplace temperatures. I believe that the Government should consider such a review.
In the meantime, employers have a duty under the current regulations to ensure that workplaces remain at a reasonable temperature and to consult with employees and their representatives to establish sensible measures to cope with hot weather.
Recently, a number of constituents have asked me to sign EDM 344 – Statutory Maximum Working Temperature. I do not sign Early Day Motions as they do not achieve anything in Parliament and they are costly to administer.
However, I can assure constituents that I am in support of the campaign to introduce into law a maximum working temperature. I would also support other measures to introduce a maximum working temperature into law, and hope to see action on this issue.