Sum­mer sweat­shops a worry as tem­per­a­tures rise


‘ The new law is bet­ter over­all, but it used to be clearer.’ JOHN CROCKER, COUN­CIL OF TRADE UNIONS

AS of­fices heat up thanks to the sum­mer swel­ter, unions are plan­ning on ask­ing for the law to stip­u­late what con­sti­tutes ‘‘com­fort’’ in the work­place.

New Zealand Coun­cil of Trade Unions health and safety pol­icy an­a­lyst John Crocker says work­ers should com­plain about the tem­per­a­ture if they are un­com­fort­able, and shouldn’t wait un­til they are too cold, too hot, or un­well.

WorkSafe still refers to some 1992 Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health guide­lines about how hot is too hot, but it rec­om­mends work­place tem­per­a­tures be be­tween 19 and 24 de­grees Cel­sius in sum­mer, and be­tween 18C and 22C in win­ter.

Crocker said cur­rent health and safety laws were broader than pre­vi­ously on em­ploy­ers’ re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to pro­vide a suit­able and suf­fi­cient work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. The unions want to see what con­sti­tutes ‘‘com­fort’’ spelled out more specif­i­cally when the law is re­viewed in 2020.

‘‘The new law is bet­ter over­all, but it used to be clearer.’’

AWorkSafe spokes­woman said em­ploy­ers had a le­gal obli­ga­tion to iden­tify risks in the work­place and mit­i­gate them. That in­cluded con­sid­er­ing the ef­fects of heat and cold, which was about­more than just a tem­per­a­ture.

Crocker said that even if a build­ing’s tem­per­a­ture dial seemed to be set at the right level, there would be vari­a­tions through­out the prop­erty that needed to be dealt with.

Younger peo­ple tended to be less sen­si­tive to the cold than older work­ers. And some peo­ple had health is­sues that meant they wer­e­more sus­cep­ti­ble to the con­di­tions.

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