The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is warning that, despite the poor summer, kitchen temperatures can still become hot enough to put staff health at risk.
It is currently revising employers' guidelines in the light of its belief that at least 65% of commercial kitchens are inadequately ventilated (Caterer, 7 August 1997, page 6).
The TUC argues that the Government's failure to set a legal maximum temperature means "the law cannot be relied upon to protect workers from sweatshop conditions."
It wants employees to have the same rights to refuse to work in over-heated conditions - it suggests 27ºC for strenuous work and 30ºC generally - as they currently have if temperatures drop below 13ºC or 16ºC. But an HSE spokesman said this would be impractical due to the huge variations between different trades.
As heat and humidity rise, concentration flags and tempers fray, while errors and accidents multiply. Staff can suffer from fatigue, extra strain on the heart and lungs, dizziness, fainting, heat cramps, stomach problems and disturbed sleep.
If blood temperature hits 38.9ºC, staff can suffer heat stroke, delirium and confusion and, above 41ºC, potentially fatal collapse or organ damage.