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UK heatwave set to break all known records

A wildfire near Landiras, southwestern France

Should there be a maximum working temperature? As Britain smoulders and much of Europe is ravaged by fire, living with extreme heat may be the new normal. Do we need new rules? Code red! The UK declares the first-ever heat national emergency. Lives are at risk as temperatures reach 40C for the first time. The heatwave has already scorched Europe, with wildfires in France, Spain and Portugal. Thousands have fled their homes. In Portugal, mercury soared to 46.3C. Hotter than Ouargla in the Sahara. Almost as hot as today's weather at Furnace Creek, Death Valley — which hit 56.7C in 1913. A world record. The Met Office chief warns this is not "a chance to play in the sun". In 2003, a heatwave killed 70,000 people in Europe. The Met Office advises people to change their "working practices" to avoid heat stress. But there is no legal maximum working temperature. So is it time to change the law? MPs have signed a motion to set a legal limit of 30C in all workplaces. They argue extreme heat causes: "dizziness, tiredness, asthma, heat stroke and death". The Unite union says employers have a "duty" to protect workers' health. Students are overheating, says teacher Nick Jones. It is "incredibly difficult" to sit exams. Studies show a 1C rise is linked to a 2% fall in learning. Government guidance recommends a "reasonable" temperature. But some jobs are hotter than others, like work in kitchens and bakeries. If we all stop working, the country will grind to a halt. Lawyer Mark Scoggins says it is "a matter for" bosses and not the government. Other countries set limits to protect health. China bans outdoor work over 40C and the United Arab Emirates restricts work during the hottest hours of the day. The OED defines a heatwave as "​a period of unusually hot weather." But scientists warn the UK could top 40C every four years by 2100. In the best-case scenario, extreme heat waves may still strike every 15 years. Should there be a maximum working temperature? Feel the heat Yes: Of course, this is basic common sense. Above and below normal temperatures, people can not do their job correctly and may become seriously ill. Governments should step in and keep workers safe.

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