Too hot to work? Guidance on Workplace Temperature
As the UK enjoys this heatwave, workplace temperature limits are a hot topic of conversation.
Under current legislation there are no maximum or minimum workplace temperatures, however the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Guidance advises that the temperature in work rooms should normally be at least 16°C or where work involves physical and rigorous activity, 13°C.
How hot is too hot?
The HSE advises that the reason there is no maximum figure is due to the high temperatures found in some workplaces such as bakeries, foundries and glass works.
Regulation 7 from the Workplace Regulations 1992 working environment states that: ‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’
However, what is reasonable depends on the nature of the work place and may be different for an office compared to a cold store or workshop. There are also other factors to consider which can be more significant than air temperature, for example humidity, air velocity and radiant temperature.
Trade union TUC argues that high temperature “is a significant health issue” and want maximum temperature limits to be enforced due to the health and safety issues that heat presents. They want the absolute maximum working temperature to be 30°C or 27°C for those doing strenuous work. Should temperatures reach this point the TUC argues that workers should no longer have to work.
The TUC also wants employers to be obliged to adopt cooling measures when the workplace reaches 24°C.
Recommendations for working in the heat
Whilst the legislation of maximum working temperature is still being debated there are several practical recommendations for employers to consider in this warmer weather:
• Relax your dress code to allow staff to remove jackets and wear lightweight clothing
• Provide fans or cooling cabinets for staff to try to manage the workplace conditions
• Ensure any staff working outdoors have access to sun cream and water
• Consider allowing flexibility in working times so that staff have the option of coming in earlier or staying later to avoid working in the heat and sun at peak times of the day
• Allow staff to have frequent breaks and encourage staff to keep hydrated
• Where appropriate permit staff to work at a slower rate and rotate more frequently out of hotter environments
• If a number of employees are complaining about the heat you should carry out a thermal risk assessment. Further guidance and a template for this is available on the HSE website.
• You should take into account and implement appropriate measures following your risk assessment
• Be mindful to consider employees who may be more vulnerable, for example due to medical conditions like thyroid imbalances, employees who may going through menopause and those that need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) which stop them from removing layers.
To get the best out of teams it is important that employees are comfortable. Implementing small changes in the working environment during this warmer period is important to protect the health and safety of your workforce.
If you would like to discuss how you could adapt your workplace practises to better suit the warmer weather at this time of year, please contact Tamar HR on 01579 343 700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org