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UK Politics

Civil servants told not to take electric fans to work

Whitehall officials told air coolers could have 'potential impact on electrical supplies' and present a 'risk to electric shock'

Britain’s civil servants have been banned from taking electric fans  to work – but told they can stay  at home instead if their office  environment is too oppressive in the summer heat.

In rather extraordinary guidance, which has been passed to The Independent, Whitehall officials have been told that they are “NOT authorised” to bring fans or air coolers to work “due to the potential impact it could have on electrical supplies and the risk of electric shock from items not subjected to a portable appliance test”.

Government fans would be issued to members of staff, the memo added, only if temperatures reached “30C or higher”.

But in a move that may raise the hackles of other workers sweltering  in the heat, it was suggested  that they could avoid travelling  to the office altogether and work  from home.

“Subject to business needs, all  staff should consider alternative  working patterns, working from home or from a cooler location,” officials were told.

The guidance came in a  wonderfully bureaucratic email  from Whitehall’s Internal Communications unit. Entitled  “general advice on keeping cool”, it began by addressing officials who are working in the famous Treasury office by Whitehall.

“Staff based in 1 Horse Guards  Road should comply with the  natural ventilation policy that  applies in that building,” it said.

“They may also wish to try and find  a cooler area in the building to  work in. If you believe that your  work area is excessively hot then you need to inform the Facilities Management to log a call and get a reference number.

“When they respond to the call they should provide a temperature reading, as that is the only way that we can formally record temperatures. If temperatures that have been recorded by the Helpdesk are 30C or higher, fans will be issued.”

The guidance then continued with a reference to other government  departments in Whitehall with some equally onerous instructions.

“If staff based elsewhere believe that their work area is excessively hot then they need to inform the Facilities Management Helpdesk that applies for that building to log a call and get a reference number,” it stated.

“When the call is responded to,  they should provide a temperature reading. Wherever possible, and  subject to availability, portable air cooling units or fans will be provided as long as doing so does not exceed  the maximum safe electric loading for the area.”