Royal Decree-Law 4/2023, dated May 11, obliges companies to review their prevention protocols to protect workers from the expected heat waves that will be experienced this summer.

The new regulation obliges the employer to take adequate measures for the protection of workers working outdoors or in places that cannot be closed against any risk related to adverse weather phenomena of any kind, not only heat, but the text does specify that including high temperatures or extreme winds.

As a result, the aforementioned Royal Decree 486/1997, of April 14, 1997, which establishes the minimum safety and health provisions in workplaces, is amended.

Firstly, paragraph 5 of Annex III (on environmental conditions in workplaces) is deleted, which merely stated that in open-air workplaces and in workplaces which, due to the activity carried out, cannot be closed, measures must be taken so that workers can protect themselves, as far as possible, from inclement weather.

Companies will be obliged to stop the activity if workers are in danger, as part of the required protection measures. The obligation to stop must only be carried out in those cases in which the due protection of the worker cannot be guaranteed in any other way in order to carry out certain tasks during the hours when high temperatures or strong winds occur.

In the event that the State Meteorological Agency or, as the case may be, the corresponding regional body in the case of the autonomous communities that have such service, issues a warning of adverse meteorological phenomena of orange or red level, and the previous preventive measures do not guarantee the protection of the workers, the adaptation of the working conditions will be mandatory, including the reduction or modification of the hours of development of the scheduled working day.

These obligations will apply to all workplaces, including those which the Regulation itself expressly excluded from its application (Article 1.2). Therefore, it extends to:

  • Temporary or mobile construction sites
  • Means of transport used outside the company or work center, as well as workplaces located within the means of transport
  • Fishing vessels
  • Agricultural fields, forests and other lands that are part of an agricultural or forestry enterprise or workplace, but are located outside the built-up area thereof
  • Extractive industries.

Inmaculada Pessini

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