Home > Equipment & Environment > Safe Working Temperatures

Safe Working Temperatures

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 22 May 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Safe Working Temperatures Cold Hot

Safe working temperatures are important in any workplace. Low temperatures, for instance, can be uncomfortable. A cold atmosphere creates dissatisfaction and complaints. Few people can focus properly on their work when they’re trying to stay warm.

Furthermore, in a cold workplace, staff may put on jumpers and jackets. In a shop, these may not fit with a retailer’s brand image. And in an office, heavy clothing can restrict movement when using computers.

At the other end of the scale, excess heat can cause drowsiness. This in turn may lead to sloppy or unfinished work. High temperatures cause Heat Stress and other health problems.

Minimum Temperatures

The minimum safe working temperatures recommended by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are 13ºC and 16ºC.

The first of these applies to a workplace where there is physical activity. Such activity could be loading and stacking in a warehouse, or mobile work in a factory.

A minimum temperature of 16ºC applies to a sedentary workplace. This could be an office environment, a call centre or a public reception area.

Maximum Temperatures

Despite the difficulties associated with hot working environments, there is no legal maximum safe working temperature. The only requirement is that workplace temperatures in buildings should be reasonable. This condition appears in the Workplace Regulations 1992.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has gathered many examples of the effect of high temperatures. During hot summers, for example, employees are more prone to trip or slip. And those staff that work with computers often suffer from stress, tension and tiredness.

For manual workers, the effects of working in hot conditions are just as bad. The TUC has reports of fainting, dizziness and cramps. For some workers, the heat also places a dangerous burden on lungs and hearts.

Other common medical conditions associated with working in overheated workplaces include asthma, throat infections, and rhinitis.

Recommendations

In the absence of a legal ruling, the TUC has recommended maximum safe working temperatures. These are 27ºC for manual workers, and 30ºC for sedentary workers.

Controlling High Temperatures

In an office, employers may be able to keep the maximum temperature below 30ºC. They can do this with suitable ventilation and shades.

Suitable ventilation can take the form of air conditioning, open windows and fans. These measures can help to keep the air fresh. Stuffy air interferes with workers’ concentration, and can raise the temperature to uncomfortable levels.

If employers use air conditioning, they need to ensure that engineers regularly service and maintain the systems. Badly functioning air conditioning has led to examples of increased rather than lower temperatures.

Employers can also make staff more comfortable by allowing a sensible dress code and by ensuring there are regular breaks for cooling drinks.

Controlling safe working temperatures for people doing manual work outdoors in the heat is more difficult. The TUC suggests that such workers have regular breaks and drink a lot of water. It also proposes that management arranges for workers to rotate to jobs in shaded areas whenever possible.

Controlling Low Temperatures

In an office or shop, the obvious way to maintain the minimum safe working temperature is by using heaters.

For outdoor manual workers, employers should supply adequate warm clothing. Manual workers should also have frequent hot drinks.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I work in a store that gets up to 40 degrees in the summer, with it regularly being around 35. We don't have any air con and everyone is visibly uncomfortable. Last summer we had a few people get ill from the heat. To add to this is quite a manual job - we make food and can have to make in excess of 50 orders per hour, each order only has 3 minutes to be made so we have to move quickly, heating us up more. Our employer is so far not wanting to have the air con fixed as it's expensive. Is there anything we can do about this?
J - 22-May-17 @ 7:47 PM
David - Your Question:
Hi I work in retail I work in a warehouse and also on shop floor filling shelfs and also serving and helping customers. We had our breaks taken away unless we work over 6 hrs. but in heat like it is with no aircon let alone any air at all are we entitled to any sort of break? It gets unbearable when it's hot and I have been told as I only do 6hrs a day 6 days a week they don't see why I should have a coffee whilst I'm there. it can't be right!!Can it??

Our Response:
You are entitled to access to drinking water. Here's what the HSE says:
The law requires that employers provide drinking water and ensure that:
* It is free from contamination and is preferably from the public water supply _ bottled water dispensers are acceptable as a secondary supply
* It is easily accessible by all employees
* There are adequate supplies taking into consideration the temperature of the working environment and types of work activity
* Cups or a drinking fountain are provided
SafeWorkers - 18-May-17 @ 2:08 PM
Hi I work in retail I work in a warehouse and also on shop floor filling shelfs and also serving and helping customers. We had our breaks taken away unless we work over 6 hrs.. but in heat like it is with no aircon let alone any air at all are we entitled to any sort of break? It gets unbearable when it's hot and I have been told as I only do 6hrs a day6 days a week they don't see why I should have a coffee whilst I'm there... it can't be right!!Can it??
David - 17-May-17 @ 3:58 PM
The gorth - Your Question:
I drive buses that are freezing , what's the working temperature for driver and passenger in side the bus

Our Response:
There is no legal minimum for this kind of thing. Raise it with your employer as we're guessing it's a faulton the vehicle itself that is preventing the heating from working effectively.
SafeWorkers - 10-Mar-17 @ 11:07 AM
I drive buses that are freezing , what's the working temperature for driver and passenger in side the bus
The gorth - 9-Mar-17 @ 6:41 AM
I am a employee for a company, the other week their were 7 people of sick with flu like symptoms, including myself, this is down to the fact my boss is so tight with the heating it'd on until 9:30 then it's off all day and absolutely freezing, I just been diciplyned for this I feel this is extremely unfair as it's down to the negligence of the employer to us employees, am I correct or not?? If any body has a insight to this, also I'm a laminator and he keeps putting me in the paintshop can I legally refuse to work in their?
gooner31 - 14-Feb-17 @ 5:43 PM
Hi I work in the laundry of a care home. There are slats in the door for ventilation of the dryers. We did have a small heater in there but this is broken and although it didn't do a great job at least it took a bit of the chill away. We have been a week without a heater now and it's bitterly cold, it was only on 6 c today. The both of us have caught an awful cold and both find we can't get warm even when we both go home. We don't get sick pay but wanted to know if they would be liable to pay us as this cold is getting worse due to the low temps in our work space
Pop - 13-Feb-17 @ 4:37 PM
My employer has my office radiator on a timer. I work in a mechanics its freezing. Today he won't turn the heating on and inside its 9 degrees celcius and outside its 4 degrees celcius!!!!!
faith - 13-Feb-17 @ 3:31 PM
It is time for a national campaign to close doors on shops during winter. Can anyone imagine shop owners being stupid enough to insist on leaving the door open in eastern Europe at this time of year? Newsagents etc. continually have the door open, because they are afraid people will assume the store is closed (despite neon signs saying OPEN). A proper campaign will educate people to the idea that doors are usually shut, so business will not suffer. Besides the conditions for the miserable employee being greatly improved, the store will benefit from heating costs and the environment might have a better chance. This is a national problem, requiring a national change of practice. How can we get something underway, which will surely attract the support of shopworkers and those sympathetic to their cause?
glenn - 12-Feb-17 @ 4:03 PM
Hi I work for a home improvements firm in entrance of supermarkets it is very cold does my employer have to supply any warm clothing?
Tom - 2-Feb-17 @ 3:45 PM
Hi I work instore at supermarkets usually at the entrance were there is no heating doors opening an closing I am stationary for a well known home improvements firm it's very cold does my employer have to supply me with any clothing
Tom - 2-Feb-17 @ 3:41 PM
Hi, I had a burnt out mains fuse which caused a powercut, me and my colleague was left with out electricity or heating for 8hrs, waiting for an engineer to arrived who failed to. After a freezing day we arranged for an engineer to come out the following morning so from 8am until 5:40pm my self and my colleague yet again awaited another day in the freezing cold and darkness as instructed to by our company managers for an engineer to arrive. What is it I can do about this?
Kash - 27-Jan-17 @ 7:26 PM
Nikki - Your Question:
I work in a superstore which was originally a warehouse and we two big heaters in the centre of the warehouse but reception and tills are by the doors and its freezing. 3 pairs of socks.fingerless gloves. carnt wear normal gloves we are told and on a 4 hour shift we are not allowed to have a warm drink. temp at the moment is below 10 in there. asked for heaters but most dont work. is there anything we can do !!!

Our Response:
You need to speak with your employer about this. Tell them that it's uncomfortable to actually work in these conditions. If you have some quick solutions that might work - such as heaters on the tills and reception desk - or warm drinks then make sure you suggest them. If you're still unhappy and want to take it further, you should try your union rep, or the HSE for advice.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jan-17 @ 1:01 PM
I work in a superstore which was originally a warehouse andwe two big heaters in the centre of the warehouse but reception and tills are by the doors and its freezing ... 3 pairs of socks ..fingerless gloves ... carnt wear normal gloves we are told and on a 4 hour shift we are not allowed to have a warm drink ... temp at the moment is below 10 in there ... asked for heaters but most dont work ... is there anything we can do !!!
Nikki - 22-Jan-17 @ 11:36 AM
I work in a temperature controlled room at 21c, I work directly under the air conditioning unit, I have worn a jumper in line with the employers uniform dress code everyday for over 3 years, recently they have changed that dress code making it that I should be purchasing a company jumper with logo. Should I be purchasing that uniform? Or should the company provide it.?
Will - 14-Jan-17 @ 10:12 AM
We work in security and one of the comanies we work for is asking our colleagues to stand outside for 12 hours in advers and minus temp. And complain if you go for toilet breaks. And have not given a place to sit. For breaks
Keith harper - 14-Jan-17 @ 9:45 AM
Hi, I work in a warehouse that stores chocolates in the winter on the back of the lorries it can go down to -1 to -2 and with bad canopies on the bays rain and snow comes through getting you wet. They provide us with a t-shirt and thin fleece and one 30minute break in 8 hours. Is this acceptable? Do I have to buy my own winter jacket to keep warm ans dry?
Daniel - 13-Jan-17 @ 12:08 PM
I work in groundworks construction 10 hours a day 5 days a week. I am 18 and an apprentice. I'm being forced to come in and work from 1-4 degrees. Is below 5 degrees low enough to stop work or is this illegal ??
Maxy - 13-Jan-17 @ 8:30 AM
I work in a pub in a very old building which, even during the summer, is very cold inside, in the winter it is horrendous. Yesterday the scene was something akin to The Day After Tomorrow! The cupful of paraffin for the heating system that the boss had bought had (surprisingly) run out. After 4 hours of complaining and myself, all but going on strike, heaters eventually started to appear, along with the boss. If the same happens today then I will be going home. It's not the middle ages and no-one should be expected to work in those conditions OR penalised for refusing to. Anyway, rant over, I've got to get ready for work....
GennaLee - 28-Dec-16 @ 2:43 PM
I work in a cafe on my own and my boss always shouts to have the door open it's not a massive place but doesn't have any heating and not majorly busy I'm here from 7am-4pm and have to keep the door open for example it's -3 outside and it's freezing... What can I do about this??
Happy2016 - 28-Dec-16 @ 10:11 AM
i work in a car based retail environment. we are required to fit parts on people's cars and also to change stereos and fix windscreen chips we are provided with a short sleeve polo shirt a (very) thin zip up wind protector (doesn't work, also has no insulation), there are heavy jackets available for fitting, but they are impractical and often have to have the sleeves rolled up, also the gloves provided by necessity need to be very thin...should the company be doing more to help us against the cold? ie; thermal base layers, socks, or providing us with trousers which can withstand (in part) acid spills from car batteries.
kett - 28-Dec-16 @ 9:50 AM
I work in a shopping center and my shop is right infront of the main doors and we're right infront of the water front also so when it's windy and cold is all rushes into are shop we don't even have heating or anything I've spoken to my manger but she can not do much about it what is the next best thing to do
Juju - 7-Dec-16 @ 9:35 PM
I work in a cold temperature and my wife who is 6 month pregnant too work at temperature between 1-3 degree Celsius. She complain for leg ache and cold though safety clothes are worn. Will it affect my wife and baby's health?
Risky - 7-Dec-16 @ 3:14 PM
benny - Your Question:
I work washing cars outside from half8 to half. No hot water in buckets or hose pipe. Been given some ppe such as boots jumper and jacket. With it being cold this time of year it's is difficult to keep putting hands in cold water and constantly using it. What can I do or say to help me

Our Response:
You can ask for gloves etc. It might be impracticable to have a warm water supply for the car washing, but a means of warming your hands up from time to time would be reasonable.
SafeWorkers - 7-Dec-16 @ 12:03 PM
I work washing cars outside from half8 to half. No hot water in buckets or hose pipe. Been given some ppe such as boots jumper and jacket. With it being cold this time of year it's is difficult to keep putting hands in cold water and constantly using it. What can I do or say to help me
benny - 6-Dec-16 @ 1:23 PM
Hi, I am an employed gardener for a healthcare facility. I work in all weathers hot and cold. my employers started off agreeing to purchase me work clothing ie trousers with knee pads built in and a fleece and a hat for cold weather. I have the emails with them stating that they would provide this but now after 2 years they are refusing to do this. I amreasonable with costs and amounts of things I request. Is this allowed or do I have recourse to challenge this? I see hats fleeces and protective trousers as PPE because of my job requiremnets but they do not.
diamondgeezer90 - 3-Dec-16 @ 3:14 PM
Trot - Your Question:
I work in a retail store and am placed and must stay at the front door where there is no heating it is 4 degrees I have been given extra clothing but am still extremely cold I can only wear fingerless gloves I have a thin scarf. I also must wear trainers I am there for up to 5 and a half hours before a 30 minute break. I cannot wear my own coat. What can I do?

Our Response:
Are you allowed to move around? Have you complained to your manager/employer?
SafeWorkers - 30-Nov-16 @ 12:22 PM
Sparrow1983 - Your Question:
I'm working on drive thru at a Burger restaurant tonight it is going to be minus 7 it provides no jumpers and refused to let us where are own to a another staff member last can I refuse to work by law for working in dangerous working conditions

Our Response:
Are you working outdoors?!
SafeWorkers - 30-Nov-16 @ 12:20 PM
I work in a retail store and am placed and must stay at the front door where there is no heating it is 4 degrees I have been given extra clothing but am still extremely cold I can only wear fingerless gloves I have a thin scarf. I also must wear trainers I am there for up to 5 and a half hours before a 30 minute break. I cannot wear my own coat. What can I do?
Trot - 29-Nov-16 @ 11:50 AM
I'm working on drive thru at a Burger restaurant tonight it is going to be minus 7 it provides no jumpers and refused to let us where are own to a another staff member last can I refuse to work by law for working in dangerous working conditions
Sparrow1983 - 29-Nov-16 @ 10:45 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the SafeWorkers website. Please read our Disclaimer.