‘Hitzefrei’: When is it too hot to work in Austria?

Hitzefrei When is it too hot to work in Austria

Austria is currently experiencing a wave of high temperatures, which means workers in construction and other outdoor occupations are feeling the heat.

To counter this, the “Hitzefrei”, or “no heat” regulation, is an Austrian law that allows people working outdoors to lower tools when the mercury reaches 32.5 degrees.

However, the construction company, or the boss, must activate the Hitzefrei settlement on a construction site, and the workers have no right to it.

As Austria experiences a heat wave, here’s what you need to know about Hitzefrei.

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What is the law?

Hitzefrei was introduced to protect the health and safety of workers during times of extreme heat, and in May 2019, the temperature deemed too hot was reduced from 35 degrees to 32.5 degrees.

This means that employers can allow their staff to stop working until the temperature drops to a safe level. Sometimes it can be just during the hottest hours of the middle of the day or in the late afternoon.

Workers should also be provided with sun protection, including personal protective equipment, and be allowed to take numerous water breaks.

Well above the maximum temperature for working in Austria. Photo: ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

If Hitzefrei is enforced, workers receive 60 percent of their wages, which is reimbursed by BUAK (the construction workers’ leave and severance fund).

BUAK statistics show that 39,122 construction workers from 5,245 companies achieved the Hitzefrei designation in 2019.

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Something controversial?

In recent days, the Bau-Holz union (lumber union) demanded a legal right in Hitzefrei for workers, claiming that many companies were not using the regulations and some employees were forced to continue working in the city. heat.

The Tyrolean branch of the union took a particular stand on the issue and called for the settlement to be enforced for thousands of construction workers on Tuesday (June 22, 2021) when the temperature rose above 32.5 degrees.

According to the Bau-Holz union, working in construction at high temperatures is “very dangerous” and more and more accidents occur as the ability to concentrate decreases.

The risk of UV exposure is also higher for workers, especially when working at heights on scaffolding.

With the five hottest summers in history since 2000, unions are calling for more protection for workers as more heat waves are expected in the years to come.

READ MORE: Will EU force Austria to adopt minimum wage?

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