Draw up a heat plan to keep employees safe and healthy

A heatwave is a 5-day period in which the temperature reaches at least 25 °C and exceeds 30 °C on 3 days. But what should you as an employer do when a heatwave strikes? There are no national rules on working during a heatwave (yet). But employers are responsible for giving employees a safe, healthy working environment. Create your own heat plan and adjust employees’ working conditions during extremely hot weather. This will keep them fit and safe.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are required to provide a safe and healthy workplace. The Act does not set out specific rules on how you deal with heat in the workplace or what you have to arrange for this. However, employers are responsible for ensuring that the temperature in the workplace does not endanger the health of employees. 

Persistent heat can lead to fatigue, decreased performance, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, headaches, and skin problems. The following tips and examples will help you prevent mistakes by your employees and absenteeism due to the heat. 

Examples of heat plans 

Create your own heat-health action plan or heat protocol using the examples below and adapt working conditions to high temperatures. These plans and protocols can be useful during a heatwave. Explore if your company has any specific risks for heat stress by performing a Risk Assessment and Evaluation (RI&E). Decide on rules, policies, and controls together with your employees. You can also lay down rules, policies, and controls in you employee handbook

Measures to help avoid heat stress 

The employer: 

  • Provides appropriate work clothing (if necessary) 
  • Has hot air removed by providing a ventilation system 
  • Reduces working hours
  • Extends breaks
  • Provides cold drinks 
  • Insulates heat-producing devices 
  • Installs blinds
  • Keeps flat roofs wet


  • Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol 
  • Stay fit to handle the heat better
  • Avoid the heat during hottest period of the day (between 12.00 and16.00) 
  • Close doors to hot areas (furnace, fire chamber) as soon as possible 
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity or postpone physical tasks
  • Wear loose dry clothing 

Source: Health and Safety Portal (in Dutch) 

Hot weather roster 

Adjusting working hours is a quick and effective precaution. Is extreme heat predicted? Agree with your employees that they can work at different times. According to exercise physiologist Thijs Eijsvogels of Radboud University Medical Centre, the hottest part of the day should be avoided. He suggests working from 06:00 to 12:00, then taking a long break until 16:00 or 17:00, then working a few hours.  

Cool workplace 

Make the workplace as comfortable as possible and help employees cool down. For example, by installing blinds or air conditioning, and by providing fans or cool drinks. Look for ways to keep the heat out. Consider opening all the doors or windows in the morning and closing them as soon as temperatures start to rise. 

Working from home in the heat 

Coordinate with employees who are working from home during a heatwave and help them set up their workplace. Consider giving them an annual budget to spend on equipment such as a fan or a mobile air conditioning unit, for example. 

Tips from other employers 

How do other business owners deal with working in extreme heat? We asked two business owners and one human resources policy advisor for their thoughts on the issue. 

Adapted working hours and blinds 

“We let employees decide whether to work from home or in the office and when they want to start their day”, marketing agency PixelX’s Wim van den Burgh begins. For Van den Burgh, employees’ needs and wishes are the best starting point. “We do not have a heat plan because strict policies are not a good fit with our culture. We do provide fans, and employees are free to spend some time cooling off at a lake which is close to our office if their schedule permits. Colleagues are in charge of their own deadlines and calendar.” 

Van den Burgh and his team are based in a listed building in Rotterdam. “Heat-proofing the building was a struggle at first. Our studios have single glazing, so installing an air conditioning unit was complicated. We recently installed sun-blocking window film, lowering the temperature by about 7 or 8 degrees.” 

Rotating shifts 

“The event industry has its own heat plan with guidelines for everything from water fountains and sunscreen to shaded areas and modified working hours”, says entrepreneur Guy Verbeek. “However, the show must always go on and we have to keep serving guests.” Verbeek has a staffing agency that provides festival staffing services in the Netherlands and abroad. They also provide management services, managing staff on behalf of the event organiser. 

“At festivals like Mysteryland, our security guards work in rotating shifts. We also deploy extra staff to give food, drink, and sunscreen to security guards with a fixed post. We also let security guards switch posts when necessary. The days can get very long in our industry, so smooth rotating shifts are essential when the temperatures start to rise. 

Air conditioning in lorries 

“To stay safe, transport and logistics workers must literally be able to keep their heads cool”, says Manue Azoulay, policy adviser on human resources with business association evofenedex. “That is why the collective labour agreement (CAO) for the ‘Professional goods transport by road and mobile crane rental’ sector requires all lorries to be equipped with an air conditioner. The CAO contains clear rules on ensuring a safe and healthy workplace.” 

Extra precautions are also important for warehouse workers. “A lot of work in warehouses is done with forklifts, so small accidents can have massive effects. That is why we often modify working hours during heatwaves. The warehouse workers and forklift drivers start an hour earlier. Before the temperatures start to rise, they usually leave the loading dock doors open. Cooling warehouse roofs with water is also common practice.” 

Extreme heat set to become more common 

Scientists and meteorologists predict that extreme heat will become more common in the Netherlands. If it were up to Trade Union FNV, all CAOs would soon contain heat precautions. Start preparing now and make sure that your heat plan is in order.