Working Environment Temperatures – the law!
What does the law say about working environment temperatures.
In this blog we are referring to https://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/law.htm
Is it too hot or too cold to work? Temperature in the workplace
In offices or similar environments, the temperature in workplaces must be reasonable.
There’s no law for maximum working temperature, or when it’s too hot to work.
Employers must stick to health and safety at work law, including:
- keeping the temperature at a comfortable level, sometimes known as thermal comfort
- providing clean and fresh air
There are six basic factors which usually cause discomfort. Employees should talk to their employer if the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable.
The 6 most relevant factors
The most commonly used indicator of thermal comfort is air temperature – it is easy to use and most people can relate to it. However, air temperature alone is not a valid or accurate indicator of thermal comfort or thermal stress. It should always be considered in relation to other environmental and personal factors.
The six factors affecting thermal comfort are both environmental and personal. These factors may be independent of each other, but together contribute to an employee’s thermal comfort.
Minimum workplace temperature
The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.
Higher workplace temperatures
A meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale 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, ie radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.
In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.
The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations. Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.
HSE does not have specific guidance for working in temperatures below 13°C.
You will likely be complying with the law if you work in accordance with British/European Standards but you can demonstrate compliance by alternative means.
As a first point of reference you are advised to refer to the British Standards listed below.
The standards listed are not an exhaustive list but provide a framework around which you can develop your risk assessment and start managing the problem. You may need to refer to other standards listed elsewhere, dependant on your operational circumstances.
British standards for assessing cold stress in the workplace
- BS EN 511: Protective gloves against cold
- BS EN ISO 13732-3: Ergonomics of the thermal environment. Methods for the assessment of human responses to contact with surfaces
- BS 7915: Ergonomics of the thermal environment. Guide to design and evaluation of working practices in cold indoor environments
- DD ENV ISO 11079: Evaluation of cold environments. Determination of required clothing insulation (IREQ)
- BS EN ISO 15743: Ergonomics of the thermal environment. Cold workplaces. Risk assessment and management
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