The maximum/minimum temperature in the workplace
17th July, 2013
The law does not state a minimum temperature but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:
• 16oc or
• 13oc if much of the work is physical
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 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 depends on the nature of the workplace i.e. a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.
The associated 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.’
Where the temperature in a workroom would otherwise be uncomfortably high, for example because of hot processes or the design of the building, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature, for example by:
• Insulating hot plants or pipes;
• Providing air-cooling plant;
• Shading windows;
• Siting workstations away from places subject to radiant heat.
Where a reasonably comfortable temperature cannot be achieved throughout a workroom, local cooling should be provided. In extremely hot weather fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.
Where, despite the provision of local cooling, workers are exposed to temperatures which do not give reasonable comfort, suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided. Where practical there should be systems of work (for example, task rotation) to ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.
Thermal comfort risk assessment
The “five steps to risk assessment” method has been adapted to help employers in the assessment of thermal comfort. Some of the points described may only be relevant for thermal stress conditions. At each stage of the five steps, think about the six basic factors. Think about how they may be affecting your employees and try and think about ways of controlling those factors that may be having the largest impact.
If the environment in your workplace is affected by unexpected seasonal variations etc, then you may need to re-evaluate and (if necessary) reassess the risks to your workforce.
The five steps are:
• Step 1 : Identify the hazards
• Step 2 : Decide who is at risk
• Step 3 : Evaluate the risks
• Step 4 : Record your findings
• Step 5 : Review your assessment
There are notes which can be obtained on the HSE website on how to deal with each step above.
Step 1: Identify hazards
Are employees complaining that they are feeling too hot or too cold?
The following limits have provisionally been adopted. They are intended as the trigger to indicate that a thermal comfort risk assessment may be necessary, and as such they are not prescriptive. The limits have been set up to take into account differences between premises, types of occupations and the ability to control the environments in those situations.
Air conditioned offices Are more than 10% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?
Naturally ventilated offices Are more than 15% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?
Retail businesses, warehouses, factories and all other indoor environments that may not have air conditioning Are more than 20% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?
If the answer is YES to the above, then you may need to conduct a thermal comfort risk assessment. When conducting a risk assessment:
• Listen to your workers views and concerns. They are experts in their jobs, and may have noticed things that are not immediately obvious. Also speak to your employees representatives (e.g. unions and other staff associations) in the workplace,
• Contact industry federations or associations etc, and consider speaking to managers in other companies that are involved in the same business as your own;
• Contact HSE for advice.
For more information on this and other employment issues please contact Claire Brook on 01244 405575 or email [email protected]