As the temperature changes, many employers may experience complaints from staff about the temperature in the workplace. There is a common misconception that there is a ‘legal minimum or maximum temperature’ there is no such temperature specified by the law.
However, it is recommended by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:
16°C, or 13°C if much of the work is physical.
If the workplace is too hot
If a significant number of employees are complaining about thermal discomfort, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment.
A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments, it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. Factors other than air temperature, i.e. radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. The 7th of these regulations deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:
“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.
However, the application of the regulation differs depending on the nature of the workplace i.e. a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.”
The associated Approved Code Of Practice (ACOP) goes on to explain:
The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable. ‘Workroom’ means a room where people normally work for more than short periods.
The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees celsius unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13 degrees celsius. These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity.
If the temperature in a workroom is uncomfortably high, for example, due to hot processes or the design of the building, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature by:-
If a reasonably comfortable temperature is unable to be attained throughout a workroom, local cooling should be provided. And in extremely hot weather fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.
- shading windows;
- insulating hot plants or pipes;
- providing an air-cooling plant;
- locating workstations away from places subject to radiant heat.
If, despite the provision of local cooling, workers are exposed to temperatures that still don’t give reasonable comfort, suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided.
Also, where practical, systems of work should be implemented such as task rotation. This would ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.
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