The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

M&E Companies Must Protect Workers from Extreme Heat Stress

M&E Companies Must Protect Workers from Extreme Heat Stress
26 April 2023

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is urging employers to take steps to prevent heat stress and dehydration in their workforce.

2022 was the sixth-warmest year on record based on data from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2022 also saw Britain experience its first Red extreme heat national severe weather warning and data suggests that the UK had made little progress in making the adaptations needed to fully prepare for climate change risks.


"Adapting industries to, and preparing them for, a warmer world will be essential for the future successful functioning of societies of all nations.”

–Dr Tim Fox

Lead author of the report


No Upper Temperature Limits Set by HSE


The Institution of Mechanical Engineers is calling for guidance related to heat impacts on the workforce to be updated urgently to help companies to develop strategies and implement changes to their workplaces. This will require updating existing infrastructure, revamping design codes and safety policies and a commitment to net zero outcomes, sustainability and resilience. In the UK the Health and Safety Executive has set minimum workplace temperatures for the indoor workplace but does not have similar upper temperature limits.

Excessive heat stress and dehydration can cause people to behave unsafely and make poor decisions. For example, in hot environments, workers may be tempted not to wear personal protective equipment properly leading to greater safety risks. Heat may also affect a worker’s ability to concentrate on a given task through decreased cognitive function, increasing the chances of errors and reducing productivity.

In the report, “Adapting industry to withstand rising temperatures and future heatwaves” the institution looks at the importance of preparing for a warmer world to ensure buildings and equipment continue to operate efficiently and avoid shutdowns, while protecting workers against high temperatures.

Dr Laura Kent, Public Affairs and Policy Advisor at the Institution said: “We acknowledge that it would be difficult for the Health and Safety Executive to set a meaningful upper temperature limit due to variations between industries in both working conditions, required PPE and workload. However, HSE guidance needs to be updated to support sectors and industry in the development of appropriate strategies.

Thermal comfort is very important in a workplace and if it is not achieved morale, productivity, health and safety will all likely deteriorate. People need safe spaces to work and be productive.”


Adapting the UK’s Building Stock


The report notes that one of the main challenges will be to adapt existing building stock to the warmer climate which saw temperatures hit a new record of over 40 degrees last summer in the UK. Ruth Shilston, a Fellow of the institution who contributed to the report believes that owners and operators of facilities need to take climate change risk seriously and carry out audits of heat risk for infrastructure.  She added that companies face massive financial risk if factories and plants have to shut due to heat.

Speaking on the eve of publication, Dr Tim Fox, former Chair of the Institution’s Process Industries Division and lead author of the report, said: “The impacts of a warmer world on industry will be complex and broad, including technical, economic and health-related, and the implications of the findings of this report are applicable across the globe. Adapting industries to, and preparing them for, a warmer world will be essential for the future successful functioning of societies of all nations.”

Picture: a photograph of a person holding a protective hard hat in their hand. A construction site can be seen in the background. Image Credit: Adobe Stock

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 26 April 2023


Related Articles

2022 Hottest Year on Record

The Met Office has confirmed that 2022 was the UK’s hottest year on record, with an average temperature of over 10°C recorded for the first time. The full UK...

 Read Full Article
New Met Office Data to Help FMs Respond to Climate Change

A new climate data portal from the Met Office will allow facilities managers to investigate physical climate risks over the next 50 to 100 years. As part of the...

 Read Full Article
Climate Change Denier Blames Computer Warming Predictions

A leading climatologist has said that the computer simulations that are used to predict global warming are failing on a key measure of the climate today and cannot be...

 Read Full Article
HSE and NEBOSH Develop One-Day Course in Managing Stress at Work

Coinciding with Stress Awareness Month, HSE and NEBOSH have developed a new one-day qualification in managing and controlling stress at work. Health and Safety...

 Read Full Article
Building Control Officer Competence Deadline Extended by HSE

Building control professionals in England have received a 13-week extension to allow them more time to complete competence assessments. The Director of Building Safety...

 Read Full Article
Cordant Cleaning Limited Employee Killed at Bus Depot

Albin Trstena was working for Cordant Cleaning Limited when he was hit by a reversing bus being driven by a colleague. Albin, 25 from Tottenham was working at the yard...

 Read Full Article
HSE Expands Home Working Guidance

The Health and Safety Executive has updated its home working guidance to include straightforward actions to manage home workers’ health and safety. The HSE...

 Read Full Article
BOHS Report Shows Rise in Work-Related Illness Among Women

A report from the British Occupational Hygiene Society highlights that women are carrying more of the burden of occupational disease than men and that immediate action is...

 Read Full Article
HSE Releases Latest Workplace Fatality Figures

Health and Safety Executive figures show that 135 workers died in work-related incidents between April 2022 to March 2023, an increase of just over nine per cent from...

 Read Full Article
West Bromwich Manufacturer Fined After Legionnaires’ Outbreak

A judge has fined a plastics manufacturing company in West Bromwich for failing to manage the risk of Legionella in its water cooling towers. Riaar Plastics Limited...

 Read Full Article