If you’ve never heard of a heat policy, you might not think that it could be relevant to your company. But with the rapidly evolving world of human rights law, you may need to think again if your employees, or the workers within your supply chains at home or abroad, operate in high-temperature environments.

The concept of a heat policy is pretty straightforward. Its purpose is to protect employees who are working in environments where heat can present a health and safety issue, or where it can negatively impact employee productivity. This issue can arise in outdoor environments in certain parts of the world, as well as indoors within facilities that operate equipment that generates significant heat. A heat policy would be based on an assessment of the specific circumstances, and might address issues such as working hours (such as to avoid the hottest parts of the day), shade, hydration, ventilation and rest breaks.

If your company already has a heat policy, it’s likely that these issues have a direct impact on its workforce. But if it’s not something you have ever considered, it is worth looking at your foreign and domestic operations, as well as your supply chains, to consider whether this is something that you should be implementing in certain locations, or requiring your contractors to put in place. The media focus on health, safety and human rights in the modern global workforce is exposing serious shortcomings in the way in which the distant headquarters of large corporations are thinking about these issues and making sure that appropriate policies and training are implemented where necessary.

In addition to the serious reputational hit on businesses that are found to have dropped the ball in ways that result in human suffering, the laws are catching up, too. Multi-national businesses are becoming increasingly exposed to legal liabilities in cross-border litigation. If you’ve never heard of a heat policy, stop and think about whether that’s a problem that needs to be fixed.