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19th Jul 2022

Calls for maximum temperature limit law to be introduced into Irish workplaces

Emily Mullen

Hot enough for ya?

Yesterday heralded a highly significant and tremendously sweaty day for Irish weather, sparking plenty of questions around one of the most exciting subjects of all – workplace rights.

Perhaps you’re in a boiling hot office right now. It’s not ideal, really. Maybe there ought to be a law that could even go as far as to prohibit working in certain extreme weather conditions.

That’s the argument put forward by Labour Party Senator and spokesperson for Employment Affairs, Marie Sherlock, at least. Speaking on Monday (18 July), Sherlock called for the immediate introduction of legally-defined maximum temperature limits for outdoor and indoor work in Ireland.

Sherlock has placed urgency on the matter given both the current surge of hot weather and the likelihood of generally increased summer temperatures still to come.

“Temperatures hitting in excess of 30 degrees may feel like a one off novelty for Ireland, however the reality is that for certain workers, these temperatures are very difficult to work in for office-based workers in the absence of adequate ventilation, air conditioning and particularly for outdoor workers in the absence of easily available water and shade,” said Sherlock.

“Climate change in Ireland means there is a greater probability of prolonged periods of extreme heat with weather warnings likely to be an increased feature of working life in Ireland, especially in the summer. We believe maximum temperature limits must be considered as a matter of real urgency by the Government.”

Sherlock went on to state that many Irish workplaces simply aren’t fit for purpose when it comes to responding to extreme temperature highs, particularly when compared to countries with hotter climates that have the relevant infrastructure in place. The experience of Covid-19 has also been raised, which Sherlock says highlighted “the very patchy availability” of good ventilation and air improvement measures available.

“Member states in the EU currently have no united approach,” Sherlock added. “In Germany, a workplace has a normal maximum temperature of 26°C. In Spain, a maximum temperature is set at 27°C for work spaces. Although in both countries there are conditions where these limits can be breached.

“Several jurisdictions have a definite maximum working temperature of 30°C in law for indoor work and this maximum has been proposed by the European Trade Union Congress as a possible EU wide limit. That could be a place for the Irish Government to start.”

For now, Sherlock is urging Irish employers to consider if work may be temporarily paused or completed, or to reinforce a work-from-home option if possible, should temperatures hit “uncomfortable and physically stressful levels” in the days and weeks to come.

As of Tuesday morning, the Phoenix Park provisionally reached 33.0 degrees Celsius on July 18th, representing the hottest day recorded in the 21st century– since records began.

READ ON: Kildare gastropub temporarily closes kitchen to protect staff from ’40C+’ heat inside