NewsUK's rising death toll. New rules may allow work to be called off at 86°F amid the climate crisis

UK's rising death toll. New rules may allow work to be called off at 86°F amid the climate crisis

Heatwave in the United Kingdom
Heatwave in the United Kingdom
Images source: © Getty Images | SOPA Images

6:16 AM EST, January 16, 2024

The Fabian Society, a think tank, recommends revising labor law regulations. They propose that employers and property owners should be responsible for protecting employees from overheating.

The alarming data reveals a growing number of people are dying due to excessive heat in the United Kingdom. The death toll last year reached 4,500, indicating the highest record in history. Between the years 1988 to 2022, almost 52,000 deaths related to overheating were recorded in England, with a third of the total occurring since 2016.

Guided by the advice of experts from several institutions, among them the National Infrastructure Commission, London School of Economics, and Oxford University, the Fabian Society has drawn up a plan to prevent illness and deaths associated with the rising extreme heat predicted to occur in the United Kingdom due to climate change.

The plan suggests introducing a specific act on maximum working temperature indoors, allowing employees to leave work if the workplace temperature exceeds 86 degrees Fahrenheit, or 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit, in instances of strenuous work.

Research has found that "low-paid workers often lack sufficient access to water, cannot escape high temperatures, and must wear uniforms or personal protective equipment designed for lower temperatures". Those most exposed to excessive heat include people working in hospitality and manual labor and employees in educational institutions or offices, especially those in areas with large windows and poor ventilation.

Distressing data from the Isles: Britons dying from overheating

The responsibility for preventing homes from overheating stands with landlords. An additional note is that there should be protection available for homeless people. If a weather alert is issued, city councils should activate an emergency protocol, providing temporary accommodation for at least three nights for the homeless.

The report also appeals for stricter climate change resilience, a prohibition on burning upland peat bogs, and an investment in maintaining flood defenses, which are currently in dismal condition in the UK.

"The latest National Adaptation Program lacks substantial plans or investments to prepare for future effects of climate change. This places low-income households at particular risk of hazards. Low-income individuals are more exposed to the worst effects of extreme weather events and have less chance of adapting," reads the report.

"In the coming decades, many new homes, infrastructure, hospitals, and public buildings are set to be constructed. If these are not designed with the future climate in mind, we risk low resilience in key sectors and face the high costs of retrofitting a greater number of buildings and infrastructure in the future," it further states.

The electricity supply systems, transport infrastructure, and schools and hospitals may risk shutdown due to overheating. Introducing new rules regarding maximum indoor temperature could be one method of protecting UK residents. However, systemic measures must be in place to tackle rising temperatures effectively.

Experts concur that the United Kingdom could be one of the regions most affected. Even though the United Kingdom, like the rest of Northern Europe, is not guaranteed to face temperatures exceeding 122 degrees Fahrenheit as expected in parts of the Middle East, Africa, and India, the lack of adequate adaptation can make even lesser heat levels perilous here.

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