Working in hot weather – how do you keep your cool?

High temperatures are the new normal

It’s no longer news that summers are getting hotter. Due to climate change, everyone has to deal with extreme weather events. It is therefore good to think carefully about how you can keep your work pleasant and safe in the heat.

As an employer, you will have to make a heat plan to guarantee safe and pleasant working conditions. It is part of your duty of care: as an employer, you are obliged to ensure a safe and pleasant working environment. And as a freelancer you will also think about how you can continue to run your production on hot days without succumbing to the high temperature.

What will you do when the National Heat Plan is in force? Research shows that a heat plan pays off, because it reduces the chance of situations that are directly dangerous. It’s about taking action.

Step 1: Map out the risks

The extent to which you or your employees are bothered by working during extremely hot weather strongly depends on the type of work you do and the place where you work. Do you work outside in full sun? Then of course you notice much more of the warm weather than when you work indoors in a well-ventilated area with air conditioning.

outdoor work

The first step is therefore to determine whether the workplace with hot weather poses an immediate danger. A self-employed person or employee who works outside in full sun has risks such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Burn in the sun
  • Overheating due to physical exertion in the heat

Office or home workplace

Do you work in an office or at a home workplace? Then check what the temperature will be inside when it is warm outside. Is there sufficient ventilation? Is there climate control like an air conditioner? Many offices have poor climate control.

Employers must also provide a safe workplace when employees work from home. So don’t just assume that everything at home is well equipped for working on hot summer days. Also consider the travel time someone has: does he or she spend a long time in the train or car to travel to the workplace?

Vulnerable groups

Also check whether you as a self-employed person or one of your employees run a greater risk from heat. Think of:

  • People with poor(er) health, such as heart problems
  • Overweight persons
  • Elderly
  • Pregnant women

You may not know which of your employees has health problems and is taking medication, so it is good to make it clear to your staff that they also have a responsibility in this.

A self-employed person will also have to look honestly at his or her situation and assess the risks. In all cases, you want to prevent unnecessary damage from the heat.

Step 2 Addressing risks

Now that you know what the risks are, you need to look for practical solutions. You can’t change the weather, but many other factors that play a role can.

Adjust method

In many cases you can adapt your working method to the warm weather. For example, if you do work outdoors, you can:

  • Enter a tropical schedule and start earlier
  • Reduce working time
  • Taking more breaks to drink
  • Scheduling jobs that you can do in the shade
  • Alternating work
  • Personal protective equipment, such as protective clothing

Flexibility

Do your employees work in the office? You can also adjust the method if necessary. Many employers have found that flexibility is the best approach: give your employees the choice to come to the office or work from home.

One will prefer the office on a hot day, while the other prefers not to have much travel time and therefore stays at home. And even if your employees work in the office, it can be a good idea to use flexible working hours if possible (a tropical schedule).

It is important that an employer finds a suitable solution with the staff. If you don’t, an employee can go to the National Labor Inspectorate to file a complaint. An employee may not simply refuse work because of the heat. Of course, an employer is obliged to comply with the regulations.

Practical measures: at the office or at home

It is also good to look for practical solutions for more pleasant working in the heat. Of course you should not start this until the heat wave is a fact. To rule is to look into the future. Think of measures such as:

  • Install an air conditioner and/or good ventilation (home or office)
  • Pay attention to heat-producing devices such as lamps, computers, server cabinets, etc.) and switch them off if possible
  • Use sun protection on time
  • For flat roofs: keep the roofs wet (if possible)

Also, don’t forget that everyone who works in a room contributes to its warming. Maybe a separate room is an option. See how many people are working in a department in total and set a limit here. That can only make a difference by a few degrees! You can also remove warm air by properly ventilating the building.

Also agree on what you will do: whether to open windows or not. Perhaps there is a tendency to open the windows, but sometimes that does not match the air treatment of the building and it heats up unnecessarily. Clarify what is best.

Memories

In addition, you can make working in the heat easier by reminding yourself and others about practical things such as:

  • Drink plenty of cool drinks (no alcohol)
  • Wear airy dry clothes (summer work clothes)
  • Use a fan
  • Avoid unnecessary physical exertion (or delay it)

Depending on someone’s health, you can of course take extra measures. Especially if you know that someone is in a risk group, it is wise to insist on working safely in times of extreme heat. To take it extra easy and take extra breaks if necessary. An employer would do well to let it be known that working safely is paramount.

Treat to ice creams

Of course you should not forget to cool down on hot days. Who doesn’t love a nice ice cream? A nice gesture to treat yourself or your employee to a cooling rocket. That’s how you make friends!

Step 3 Evaluate

Every heat wave comes to an end. You may then tend to be happy with the lower temperatures and forget what it’s like to work in the heat. But very warm conditions are part of the new normal. So check how things went during the last heat wave and make changes to your heat plan if necessary.

For example, should you make more personal protective equipment available to your staff? Can you make the office a cooler place, for example by installing external blinds and internal blinds?

To invest

As an employer, you may need to make investments that will help you be more productive as a company during the summer. And a self-employed person can take into account warm days in the summer when planning jobs or make investments that allow him to work comfortably at home in warm weather. Everything for a pleasant working environment!

Getting started with your heat plan

In short, whether the summer is still long or has already passed: put the heat plan on the agenda of your company. This way you know for sure that you are ready for the heat and that you have taken appropriate measures. That saves a lot of time when the time comes. You work safer and are probably a lot more productive and effective!

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