Summer at work or employer’s duties during swelter
In the recent official statement, PIP (Polish National Labor Inspectorate) draws attention to a number of employers’ obligations related to high temperature in the workplace. It should be remembered that every employer has a general obligation to provide employees with safe and healthy working conditions. This obligation should be implemented taking into account the factual circumstances related to a given place and job position, and these may change during employment, if only in view of the time of year and the current weather conditions.
When the air temperature in the workplace increases significantly, first of all the employer is obliged to provide employees who are employed in conditions particularly burdensome, free of charge, with appropriate drinks, if it is necessary for preventive reasons. This obligation is specified in the provisions of the Regulation of the Council of Ministers of May 28, 1996 on precaution meals and drinks (Journal of Laws No. 60, item 279) according to which, the obligation to provide beverages by the employer applies to people employed in open-air works if the ambient temperature exceeds 25 Celsius degrees and where the temperature caused by atmospheric conditions exceeds 28 Celsius degrees. Drinks should be available to workers throughout the working shift, cold and in a quantity that satisfies their needs. It should be noted that the regulations do not provide for the possibility of the employer fulfilling his obligation to provide employees with drinking liquids in a different way, e.g. by paying employees a cash equivalent instead. It is therefore important that drinks for employees are actually available.
In the case of people carrying out work at high temperatures, deprived of access to running water, the employer is obliged to provide for hygienic purposes at least 90 l of water per day for each employee.
Another employer’s obligation related to the typical summer aura referred to in the Regulation of the Minister of Labor and Social Policy of September 26, 1997 on general health and safety at work (Journal of Laws of 2003, No. 169, item 1650, as amended), there is an obligation to lower the temperature in the workplace by providing windows and skylights with appropriate devices, e.g. blinds and roller blinds, which eliminate excessive exposure to workplaces. It should be ensured that the windows and skylights are equipped with devices allowing them to be easily and safely opened from the floor level and with devices allowing the opening of the parts to be opened in the desired position. In turn, employers who have provided the workplace with air conditioning should take care of its efficiency and regular mildew and cleaning.
Special protection against high temperatures should be guaranteed to young workers. It should be remembered that the work of adolescents in rooms where the air temperature exceeds 30 C degrees and the relative humidity of 65% is forbidden.
Finally, it should be mentioned that failure of the employer to perform the above-mentioned obligations may result in imposing a fine in the amount of PLN 1,000 to PLN 30,000.
The employer’s basic obligation to ensure safe and hygienic working conditions should always be considered taking into account current conditions at the workplace. For this reason, employers should respond to any change in the conditions under which work is performed, including weather conditions. High air temperatures in the summer months activate new duties of employers, which are aimed not only at ensuring safety in the workplace, but also improving the psychophysical state and productivity of employees, which is always in the employer’s interest.