Now that the nights are drawing in and we’re all starting to think about turning the central heating on, the subject of workplace temperature becomes ever more important.
The relevant laws that govern indoor workplace temperature are set out by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.
What are the minimum and maximum workplace temperatures?
The minimum indoor workplace temperature as stated in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations should be at least 16oC. If the work involves what is referred to as ‘rigorous physical effort’ then the Regulations state that the temperature should be 13oC at the very least.
These stated temperatures, however, are not absolute legal requirements, and employers are expected to use their own judgement to ensure staff are able to work in “reasonable comfort”.
When it comes to a maximum workplace temperature, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) does not specify a limit at all. This is because a lot of workplaces, like foundries and glass works, can feature excessively high temperatures. For workplaces like this, the HSE states that it is possible for workers to carry out their roles safely, as long as all safety measures and controls are in place and adhered to.
But where does this leave ‘normal’ places of work like offices, call centres, schools and hospitals?
As well as the Workplace Regulations 1992, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that employers have to carry out risk assessments of the workplace to ensure the health and safety of employees is protected from any potential hazards.
As the temperature of the workplace is a potential hazard to employees, then employers have a legal obligation to consult with their employees and establish reasonable means with which they can cope with working in high temperatures.
What employers can do to control the workplace temperature?
There may not be a maximum limit to how high the workplace temperature should be, but employers are expected to take ‘reasonable’ steps to protect their employees.
If the temperature is at risk of becoming unreasonably hot, then there are certain actions employers can take to control the temperature. The six main control methods are:
Control the working environment
- Use air-conditioners
- Use humidifiers
- Increase ventilation in the workplace, or redirect air movement onto or away from employees
Separate employees from the source of heat/cold
- Put up barriers to either shield or insulate the work area, or restrict access to affected areas
- Remove employees from the affected area, providing temporary new job roles if required
Control the employees’ tasks
- Limit the amount of time their employees are exposed to hot/cold conditions at work
- Control the level, and rate, of work employees are expected to carry out in the adverse conditions
- Where applicable, introduce mechanical aids (power tools, lifting tools etc…) that will assist any physically demanding jobs
Control the employees’ clothing
- If protective clothing is worn, then employers should ensure that employees are not wearing too much than is required to be safe
- If employees are required to wear uniforms, or there is a dress code in place, then employers can reassess the rules and propose alternative designs to improve levels of comfort e.g. short sleeves
Allow employees to adapt their behaviour
- Remove any restrictions on the dress code to allow employees to make their own minor adjustments to increase comfort levels
- Give employees the freedom to make adjustments to their work rate
- Provide employees with warm-up or cool-down facilities/areas
- Provide employees with portable fans or heaters, and allow employees to open windows and adjust thermostats to suit their environment
Monitor and consult with employees
- Make sure employees are given appropriate training and provided with supervision
- Seek professional medical advice for any ‘at risk’ employees e.g. those who are pregnant, are on medication or have an illness or disability
This blog post was provided by CL Legal, a Liverpool solicitor specialising in personal injury compensation.