Advice:Keeping your cool at work

By , published on 12th July 2011

When temperatures soar, employers need to take steps to reduce the temperature in the workplace.

Health & Safety guidelines state that employers have a duty to ensure reasonable workplace temperature, but evidence shows that due to the unreliable British summer, too many employers fail to monitor workplace temperature closely enough.

Surprisingly, although the law sets out minimum temperatures for the workplace, there is no clear legal maximum.

Regulation 7 of the workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 provides that ‘ during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable’. In 2004, following requests for a maximum temperature to be created, the government stated that it would not introduce a maximum workplace temperature, as it would be too impractical.

The World Health Organization has stated that the maximum temperature for ‘comfortable’ working (which, of course, is different from the maximum temperature for ‘safe’ working) is 24 degrees Celsius.

Perhaps the best guidance is the call from the TUC, in 2003, for a maximum workplace temperature of 30 degrees ( or 27 degrees for those doing strenuous work).

If temperatures in your workplace are approaching these levels, you need to think seriously about ways to manage risks such as fatigue, dizziness, dehydration and asthma. Failure to take reasonable steps (which would include introducing portable air conditioning machines, fans, providing free water or allowing longer breaks) might result in civil liability if an employee suffers ill-health.

It should also be borne in mind that an employee’s age, build and medical factors , may affect an individual’s tolerance of the heat/humidity and hence productivity.

On the other side of the coin, there are minimum temperatures for the workplace laid down under the Health & Safety legislation. The temperature should be comfortable – at least 16 degrees Celsius where people are seated or don’t have to move much and at least 13 degrees Celsius where people are active.

If the temperature must be lower, people should not be exposed for too long and wear suitable clothing, provided by the employer.

If a summer slump in your business productivity is to be avoided, you need to take into account heat as a workplace risk.

Do you need practical and impartial advice for your business issues? Then call  me  on 01403 733671 or Email: [email protected]

< See all advice

Janette Whitney

About Janette Whitney

Janette Whitney is an award-winning business consultant, media columnist and award-winning business author. She specialises in business growth strategies and finance and formed her consultancy business after a highly successful career in banking. Janette’s expertise has won her both national and regional awards which include ‘Consultant of the year’ and ‘Business Book of the Year’ award (as co-author of ‘The Essential Business Guide’).

Post a new comment