Matteo Schiavone September 7 2022 How should employers respond to threat of heatwaves? Stanchi Studio Legale | Employment & Immigration - Italy Matteo Schiavone Employment & Immigration IntroductionRecent regulatory interventionsNational legislative provisionsIntroductionItaly has been dealing with continual heatwaves over the summer, the frequency and intensity of which is expected to increase in the coming years. Labourers – particularly those on construction sites – will be the most affected by spikes in temperature, and their employers, which are responsible and liable for employee health and safety, will have to enforce measures in order to safeguard them.Prolonged exposure of employees to high temperatures can lead to health risks, such as heat stroke, and a rise of injuries as a result of the loss of attention and a reduced ability to react to unexpected events.This article provides an overview of recent regulatory interventions and national legislative provisions.Recent regulatory interventions In 2022, several institutions, such as the following, have issued specific measuresto address the repercussions rising temperatures on work activities.the National Institute of Social Security (INPS);the National Institute for Occupational Accident Insurance (INAIL); andthe National Labour Inspectorate (INL).In a message and a press release,(1) the INPS recently provided details for accessing and using redundancy funds (CIGO) to pay workers that are suspended because of high temperatures, following demands from employers.Employers can ask to be granted access to the CIGO for "weather events" in the case of suspension or reduction of work due to temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius – or below 35 degrees Celsius if the perceived temperature is higher than the real one (eg, on days with a high level of humidity). Further, access may be granted where work takes place at sites that cannot be protected from the sun and/or involves the use of materials and machinery that are particularly sensitive to strong heat (eg, laying roads, façade renovation and roofing).In note No. 3783/2022, the INL drew the attention of its inspection staff to preventing risks to the health and safety of workers that are caused by the intensity and duration of heat waves. The note specified that the local branches will intensify their awareness and supervision activities on the measures adopted by employers in order to minimise the risk associated with heatwaves.On 11 July 2022, the INAIL published a specific guide for preventing heat pathologies in the workplace.National legislative provisionsOn the other hand, the general legislative provisions concerning microclimatic conditions in the workplace are provided in Legislative Decree 81/2008 with reference to all work environments. There are also specific provisions concerning particular work environments, such as:underground works (eg, tunnels, caves and wells);(2)mines and quarries;(3)drilling sites, open pit mines or underground drilling sites.(4)Legislative Decree 81/2008 does not require employers to maintain temperatures in the workplace within a certain and specific range in order to safeguard employee health and safety, as it is sufficient to consider whether the working methods, physical activities, humidity and air movement are conducive to the associated work.(5)However, the INAIL recommends maintaining temperatures between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius inside offices during winter and a difference of now more than seven degrees Celsius between indoor and outdoor temperatures during the summer.Even if the national legislation may seem lacking from a technical point of view, it is essential to bear in mind that under Italian law, employers are fully responsible (civilly and criminally) for health and safety in the workplace. In order not to be considered liable, they are requested to provide evidence of having adopted all security measures and every necessary precaution, including maintaining suitable temperatures in the workplace, to protect employee health and safety.Further, employers are not only liable for employee health and safety but can also face the issues of employees to work while extreme temperatures persist. This was the focus of Supreme Court decision(6) in a case where employees refused to work do to the temperatures. While it was low temperatures that led to the walk-out in this case, the principle can also apply to high temperatures.For further information on this topic please contact Matteo Schiavone at Stanchi Studio Legale by telephone (+39 02 546 9522) or email ([email protected]). The Stanchi Studio Legale website can be accessed at www.stanchilaw.it.Endnotes(1) Messages No. 2999/2022 and 2974/2022.(2) Presidential Decree 320/1956.(3) Presidential Decree 128/1959.(4) Legislative Decree 624/1996.(5) Legislative Decree 81/08, Annex IV, article 1.9.(6) 6631/2015.