Our Ref: E4/23
To: All Branches
Re: Workplace Minimum Temperature & Workplace Thermometers:
Following a number of enquiries from CWU Representatives and members during the current cold weather regarding minimum workplace temperature and provision of workplace thermometers, we are re-issuing advice for the assistance of Branches and Health and Safety Representatives.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) and Guidance is that employers should maintain a minimum temperature in indoor workplaces of 16C/61F or 13C/55F where employees undertake physical work.
For an office workplace therefore the minimum would be 16C or 61F.
Generally speaking, informal guides suggest the acceptable area of comfort for most types of work lies between 16C – 24C or 61F – 72F. Recent research has shown that concentration is reduced and therefore productivity suffers when working in a workplace which is too hot or too cold. Lack of concentration may also lead to increased risk of accident. More commonly workers can become irritable, and feel tired.
The Chartered Institute of Building Services provide the following recommendations for ‘minimum’ temperatures in different work areas:
Light work in workplaces – 16C/61F
Office and dining rooms – 20C/68F
Heavy work in workplaces – 13C/55F
Hospital wards and shops – 18C/64F
Employers must stick to Health and Safety At Work Law. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Regulation 7 requires employers to keep the temperature at a comfortable level.
Under this regulation, employers must also provide a sufficient number of thermometers to enable workers to be able to determine the temperature in any workplace/building.
Employers must also ensure there is clean, fresh air in the workplace under these Regulations.
Outdoor Work in Cold and Wet Weather
In respect of outdoor work in cold and wet weather, employers are required by Health and Safety Law to provide clothing to protect workers from extreme weather under the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations 1992.
These Regulations compel employers to ensure that suitable PPE is provided to ’employees’ who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work including clothing and footwear affording protection against the weather which is intended to be worn or held by a person at work and which protects the person against one or more risks to that person’s health or safety, and any addition or accessory designed to meet that objective (e.g., storm-proof jackets and wet weather clothing etc.).
Maximum Working Temperature
Although Health & Safety Regulations set no maximum working temperature, The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace. The law states that “During working hours, the temperature inside workplace buildings must be reasonable” and the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) to the regulations set out that “all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature”, this may be taken to include the provision of suitable fans, or portable air conditioning, air-cooling or climate control equipment. Suitable rest facilities should be provided in instances where local heating or cooling fails to give reasonable comfort.
Where practical, there should be risk assessment and safe systems of work (e.g., task rotation, rest breaks) to ensure the amount of time individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited. Employers must also ensure there is clean, fresh air in the workplace under these Regulations.
Outdoor Work in Hot Sunny Weather
Employers must also manage the risk of working outdoors in hot environments and extreme temperatures, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). When working outdoors, the weather can have a serious impact on a worker’s health, if the risks have not been properly managed. Working in the sun can be hazardous.
Extreme heat can cause heat stress, heat stroke and fatigue. Too much sunlight can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing. In the long term, it can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Sun burn and dehydration are dangerous and must be avoided by covering up the skin with sunlight/UV Ray protection clothing and using high factor sunscreen on any exposed skin.
The new Royal Mail Uniform Clothing is manufactured with textiles that provide nearly 100% sun protection, rated at UPF50+ for the life of the garments, which means it will never wash out. The active particles in the fabric absorbs UV light and are designed to also cool the wearer down when in hot weather. Also whilst working in hot weather and intense sunlight it’s important to seek shade, take breaks out of the sun and drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Dave Joyce National Health, Safety & Environment Officer