High temperatures can cause problems in the workplace. Heat reduces employees’ ability to concentrate, which in turn reduces productivity and increases the risk of accidents. Is an employer obliged to take measures when the weather is very warm?
What are the legal requirements relating to working in the heat?
Under the Working Conditions Act, the employer is obliged to take effective measures against heat. The temperature up to which employees can work has not been specified, but the temperature in the workplace must not be harmful to the health of the employee. An employer must stop activities if continued working is no longer deemed responsible. However, there is no clear answer as to when a workplace is too hot and thus harmful to the health of the employee. This will depend on the type of work and workplace, but also the type of employees. In sectors such as construction and the agricultural sector, however, concrete rules have been laid down in collective labour agreements.
Measures to be taken
If working in high temperatures cannot be avoided, the employer must assess whether working in that heat is strictly necessary. Moreover, it is important that an employer consults its employees about possible measures. The employer must do everything within its power to prevent health problems for employees. Employers could, for example, take the following measures:
Refusal to work
The above shows that an employer is expected to take the necessary measures in hot weather. If an employer has taken no or insufficient measures, this does not automatically imply that an employee can refuse work. This is only permitted in certain circumstances. There must be a serious and immediate danger to safety and health, which the employer refuses to address. Although it can at times be hot in the Netherlands, which may affect employees, in most cases temperatures do not rise to a level where the heat can pose a danger to the health and safety of the employee if they do work. An employee can only can refuse to work because of the heat in exceptional cases.