The UK government advises that workplace temperatures should be at least 21°C (70°F) when using computers, within a range of 13-16°C (55-60°F) if working activities require physical effort from employees and that indoor temperature should generally fall in the range of 16-24°C (60-75°F) for most businesses.
As an employer, getting the right workplace temperature is an important element of Health & Safety to get right. Creating a comfortable and productive environment for your employees helps them to perform at their best and remain healthy and happy in their work environment.
Here, we explore the importance of the right workplace temperature, what the law says about temperature, the factors that can affect it, and some tips to help you achieve the ideal temperature for your workplace.
What Does The Law Say About Temperatures At Work?
The law does not provide a specific temperature range for workplaces, but it does require employers to maintain a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace. This means that the temperature should be suitable for the work being done, taking into account factors such as the nature of the work, the clothing worn by employees, and the physical demands of the workplace.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) however recommends a minimum temperature of 16°C for sedentary work, such as in offices, and a minimum of 13°C for strenuous work, such as in cold stores or refrigerated rooms.
It’s important to remember that these guidelines should serve as a minimum and there may be times when the temperature needs to be adjusted accordingly when other factors are considered such as humidity, airflow, and radiant temperature.
Employer Legislation Governing Temperature At Work
While there is no specific legislation governing workplace temperature specifically, there are several regulations that require employers to take steps to ensure that the temperature in the workplace is reasonable, and does not pose a risk to the health and safety of employees.
Some of the key pieces of legislation that are relevant concerning workplace temperature include:
- The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974: This act sets out the general duties of employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees. It requires employers to provide a safe working environment, which includes ensuring a reasonable temperature.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992: These regulations set out specific requirements for the workplace environment, including the need to maintain a reasonable temperature. They state that the temperature in the workplace should be suitable for the work being carried out and that the workplace should be well-ventilated.
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999: These regulations require employers to carry out a risk assessment of the workplace, including any potential hazards related to temperature, and to take appropriate steps to manage those risks.
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992: These regulations require employers to provide appropriate personal protective equipment to employees, including clothing or equipment that may be necessary to manage the temperature in the workplace.
- The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002: These regulations require employers to assess the risks to employees from exposure to hazardous substances, including those that may be present in the workplace environment as a result of temperature.
Employer Responsibilities Regarding Temperatures At Work
Employers also must carry out regular risk assessments to identify any potential hazards, including those related to temperature, and take appropriate steps to mitigate them such as:
- Providing a reasonable temperature: Installing adequate heating, cooling and monitoring systems that are safe and suitable for the size of workspace you are maintaining. This should take into account any changes in the working environment or the needs of employees. The best way to ensure that the correct temperatures are being maintained is to invest in a monitoring system – such as thermostats and sensors – that will alert employers if there’s any deviation from the desired levels.
- Carrying out risk assessments: Employers must carry out regular risk assessments to identify any potential hazards related to temperature in the workplace. This could include, for example, the risk of heat stress in hot environments or the risk of cold-related illnesses in cold environments.
- Taking appropriate action: If a risk assessment identifies a hazard related to temperature, employers must take appropriate steps to mitigate the risk. This could include providing additional heating or cooling equipment, changing work practices, or providing suitable clothing.
- Providing information and training: Employers must provide their employees with information and training on the risks associated with temperature in the workplace and the measures in place to mitigate these risks.
- Communicating with employees: Employers should communicate with employees about the temperature in the workplace and any measures being taken to manage it. This might include providing information on how to report any concerns or issues related to temperature.
Simple Ways To Manage Temperature Risks At Work
With seasonal swings in temperatures, different parts of the workplace needing to operate at different temperatures, and individuals all having their personal preferences on temperatures, finding the right balance can feel like an employee minefield. There are, however plenty of simple ways to manage the risk of extreme temperatures and to ensure your staff stay safe and happy.
- Local heating and cooling measures should be employed, such as utilising radiators, fans and windows for proper air circulation.
- Heating or cooling systems that operate at safe, non-noxious levels of fumes.
- It is essential to provide thermal clothing and rest facilities, such as for hot work or cold stores
- Every work area should be adequately spaced out
- It is essential that employees take sufficient breaks throughout the day to improve their comfort and productivity, so providing extras such as a hot drinks machine or cold water dispenser can be beneficial.
- As long as no personal protective equipment is compromised in the workplace, relaxing formal dress codes can help in extremes of temperatures to ensure employee safety and comfort.
- Organising work in a way that limits an employee’s exposure to extreme temperatures, like job or workspace rotation, flexible hours and shifts.
Maintaining a comfortable and appropriate temperature in the workplace is essential for creating a productive and healthy work environment. Although there is no specific legislation on workplace temperature, employers have a duty of care to ensure that the temperature is reasonable and does not pose a risk to the health and safety of their employees, which they can do by carrying out risk assessments, providing appropriate clothing and equipment, monitoring the temperature regularly, and communicating with employees about any measures being taken.
If you would like support with managing and understanding your HR and employer responsibilities towards your workforce when it comes to Health & Safety, including workplace temperatures please call 0330 175 8275 to speak to one of our team.