Temperature and the Workplace – Avoiding the Extremes
When in a workplace environment, outside or inside, temperature plays an important role in the safety and comfort of employees.
The Workplace Regulations, as set by the Health and Safety Executive, insist upon a ‘reasonable’ indoor working temperature with employers responsible for this.
But what is reasonable and how can you counter the effects of temperature on staff.
What is reasonable?
This is based on the workplace you’re responsible for. The HSE calls for employers to do three things to ensure the temperature remains favourable to staff based on the circumstances:
- Assess the risks
- Act on any findings, by putting controls in place, including temporary or seasonal ones
- Use the heat stress checklist if applicable.
What’s the minimum temperature?
The Approved Code of Practice calls for a minimum working temperature indoors of 16 degrees Celsius or if there’s plenty of physical activity involved in the workplace 13 degrees Celsius.
If working outdoors in cold temperatures, you, as an employer, should ensure protective equipment is worn by staff, provide areas to warm up such as a tea/coffee station, factor in more frequent rest breaks, and make sure staff are educated on spotting early signs of cold stress.
What if it’s too hot?
There are more obvious options for keeping staff cool when working indoors, such as providing air-conditioning, suitable ventilation, and blinds or shutters to block direct sunlight. Position employees away from direct sunlight and areas of the building that may produce heat and provide cold water dispensers on site.
But for more extreme seasonal conditions, employers could introduce flexible working patterns to avoid the hottest part of the day, relax dress codes to cater for increased temperatures, and allow extra breaks to get cold water.
What should an employer look out for when looking at the impact of temperature?
A thorough risk assessment should have been undertaken, factoring in the conditions on site, the work being undertaken regularly, and the potential impact on employees. They should then mitigate the impacts by putting processes and procedures in place.
If employees start to display signs of cold or heat stress, leading to illnesses, then the employer should act swiftly to address the causes and limit the potential for recurring effects on the health of those on-site.
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