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Safe Working Temperatures

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 23 Aug 2018 | 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.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi I work in a small convenience store and our air conditioning has been broken for the last 2 weeks. The store temperatures have reached 40 degrees + and customers can’t bare to stay inside for longer than 5 mins. Managers aren’t racing to do anything except allow us free drinks and we’ve brought fans in from home but neither of which make any different when doing a 10 hour shift in such a hot environment. I understand there’s no legal maximum temperature but I have heard of bigger shops closing temporarily due to similar problems? How would this come about as I don’t know what the next step should be for us working there?
B_R_H - 23-Aug-18 @ 10:54 PM
I work in a care homeas a cleaner it's that got the sweat just drips off you and we can't go out for fresh air no more they stopped everyone going out
Dot - 8-Aug-18 @ 2:30 PM
Sal - Your Question:
Hi I work in a very hot and humid environment in the summer temperature at 6am is always above 33 degrees climbing to 40+. We have just been made aware that the company have not carried out a risk assessment should the by law complete this.

Our Response:
All companies should have a risk assessment that identifies any potential risks to employees. Make a formal complaint to your employer or contract HSE.
SafeWorkers - 6-Aug-18 @ 12:47 PM
Hi I work in a very hot and humid environment in the summer temperature at 6am is always above 33 degrees climbing to 40+. We have just been made aware that the company have not carried out a risk assessment should the by law complete this.
Sal - 4-Aug-18 @ 9:22 AM
Dotti - Your Question:
Hi I work in a part of a factory with no windows and up stairs I have two fans which are constantly blowing hot air around the temp at the highest has reached 39 and lowest 36 I had to take some holiday to have a day off from the heat as I find myself by 2pm confused and cant think straight although I finally got an air conditioning unit but unfortunately the temperature dint go below 34 and couldn't feel the benefit unless I was sat right on top of it, is working in this sort of heat ok? And I feel like why should I have to take my own holiday as I will be penalised for having a day off due to what the heat is doing to me at work

Our Response:
Talk to your employer about the effects of the heat on your performance. Your employer has a duty to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable. If you do not feel your issue has been listened to, you can raise a formal grievance, ACAS can help with this if you do not have a formal grievance procedure.
SafeWorkers - 30-Jul-18 @ 12:47 PM
Unsureworker - Your Question:
Hi, I work in an industrial laundry for a large company. We work with large machinery that regularly uses steam and on a normal day the temperature is 27C so what is the maximum temperature that we can work in before we can get sent home

Our Response:
Despite the difficulties associated with hot working environments, there is no legal maximum safe working temperature. 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. Contact your union rep for more information.
SafeWorkers - 30-Jul-18 @ 11:10 AM
ED - Your Question:
Hi, I work in a bakery in a very busy environment. We have two oven one small one big with the smaller one because 300 degrees and the larger ofbviluslg more. The temperature of the shop is hitting nearly 40 degrees. Air conditioning ain’t working and I’ve been complaining for months but nothing seems to be done. It’s maming me ill and I’m having black outs at work.

Our Response:
You should raise a formal grievance with your employer. If that doesn't resolve the issue contactHSE for advice on what to do next
SafeWorkers - 27-Jul-18 @ 10:36 AM
Hi I work in a part of a factory with no windows and up stairs I have two fans which are constantly blowing hot air around the temp at the highest has reached 39 and lowest 36 I had to take some holiday to have a day off from the heat as I find myself by 2pm confused and cant think straight although i finally got an air conditioning unit but unfortunately the temperature dint go below 34 and couldn't feel the benefit unless i was sat right on top of it, is working in this sort of heat ok? And I feel like why should I have to take my own holiday as I will be penalised for having a day off due to what the heat is doing to me at work
Dotti - 27-Jul-18 @ 9:21 AM
Hi, I work in an industrial laundry for a large company. We work with large machinery that regularly uses steam and on a normal day the temperature is 27C so what is the maximum temperature that we can work in before we can get sent home
Unsureworker - 27-Jul-18 @ 5:38 AM
I work cleaning buses in all conditions it don't matter if it's too hot or too cold .they don't seem to care .there answer is you work out sideso it is more or less so get on with it what are our rights
Maxi - 26-Jul-18 @ 2:21 PM
The fan does not make any difference as blowing out hot air as too hot. We do get water breaks, but when its constantly hot in the factory next to hot machines its difficult
ck560 - 26-Jul-18 @ 6:58 AM
Hi, I work in a bakery in a very busy environment. We have two oven one small one big with the smaller one because 300 degrees and the larger ofbviluslg more. The temperature of the shop is hitting nearly 40 degrees. Air conditioning ain’t working and I’ve been complaining for months but nothing seems to be done. It’s maming me ill and I’m having black outs at work.
ED - 26-Jul-18 @ 4:05 AM
CK560 - Your Question:
Hi, Work in a coffee factory where we roast and grind coffee.We have to wear ppe due to hygieneWith all this hot weather its causing us to sweat by 7am. What can we do? They have given fans which can only do so much in this heat.Asked for extra 15min break which they deem is not needed.

Our Response:
If the employer deems 15 mins is not necessary then be sure you are allowed to drink cold water when necessary/on the job. Are the fans making any difference?
SafeWorkers - 25-Jul-18 @ 3:46 PM
Hi, Work in a coffee factory where we roast and grind coffee. We have to wear ppe due to hygiene With all this hot weather its causing us to sweat by 7am. What can we do? They have given fans which can only do so much in this heat. Asked for extra 15min break which they deem is not needed.
CK560 - 25-Jul-18 @ 7:09 AM
J - Your Question:
I work in retail, no air conditioning. (because the building isn't made for it apparently) there is something that blows air into the building, but it's 99% warm air. We get given water VERY rarely, but it's warm water, no extra breaks given. I feels like its 30+c, we are still expected to do the same amount of work, alot of us feel ill. Ive tried speaking to managers and they dont really seem to care much, says it needs to 40c before we can go home!

Our Response:
Please see responses to other similar questions and the advice in the article above.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 3:26 PM
Amzz - Your Question:
I am 25 weeks pregnant and I am a cook in a busy canteen inside a factory, the temperature in the kitchen has started to hit 40 degrees and I am really starting to suffer, our air con doesn't barely work and a fan they have brought in is no use. I am completely exhausted tonight I couldn't even make it up the stairs when I got home because of the heat. Do you have any advice because I'm aware that there are no upper limits on workplace temperatures in place and I am worried about the safety of my unborn child.

Our Response:
Please check our guide to being pregnant at work which explains that your employer must carry out a risk assessment of your job to identify any possible risks to you and your unborn child. Your employer is then obliged to take reasonable steps to either remove the risk, or remove you from the risk (for example, by offering you suitable alternative work). If neither of these options are possible, your employer should suspend you from work on full pay.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 2:14 PM
I work in a pub with no air con only one entrance it’s capacity when full Wich mostly is on a Saturday is about 250 to 300 people there is no windows either the temperature is so high with body heat and fridges going is this allowed
Dawn - 24-Jul-18 @ 2:08 PM
mitch - Your Question:
Can you advise if employers are obliged to ensure that long distance wagon drivers have air conditioning in their cabs for these extreme temperatures.

Our Response:
There is nothing that specifically mentions the provision of air conditioning for long distance drivers butManagement of Health and Safety at Work regulations say that all employers have a general duty to protect the health and safety of the workforce under the Health and Safety at Work Act, and also to assess and control risks from working in hot temperatures, or exposure to the sun etc.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 12:36 PM
Sweatyworker - Your Question:
Hi,I work in a locked mental health rehab. Windows have restrictors and doors are locked. We have no air con and our estates team have rejected our application for it. One of our patient bedrooms is 31degrees and other areas vary between 29 and 31 degrees. Myself and my team of housekeepers are doing a very active job and are finding it unbearable to strip and make beds, mop and generally clean. Offices are hot too as they are very small and some have no windows that open. It beggars belief why there is no maximum temp in certain sectors. Surely for a mental health rehab this heat is doing our patients no good. Everyone is lethargic and agitated!! I have an ongoing health issue to called Crohns disease where I struggle to stay hydrated, I'm trying to drink enough but I'm sweating far more than I'm drinking. Any advice?

Our Response:
If first line management has refused then refer to senior management. If that doesn't resolve your issue, raise a formal grievance with your employer. Talk to ACAS for advice on taking it further if you feel your health and safety is being severely compromised.
SafeWorkers - 24-Jul-18 @ 11:37 AM
I work in retail, no air conditioning. (because the building isn't made for it apparently) there is something that blows air into the building, but it's 99% warm air. We get given water VERY rarely, but it's warm water, no extra breaks given. I feels like its 30+c, we are still expected to do the same amount of work, alot of us feel ill. Ive tried speaking to managers and they dont really seem to care much, says it needs to 40c before we can go home!
J - 24-Jul-18 @ 10:21 AM
I am 25 weeks pregnant and I am a cook in a busy canteen inside a factory, the temperature in the kitchen has started to hit 40 degrees and I am really starting to suffer, our air con doesn't barely work and a fan they have brought in is no use. I am completely exhausted tonight I couldn't even make it up the stairs when I got home because of the heat. Do you have any advice because I'm aware that there are no upper limits on workplace temperatures in place and I am worried about the safety of my unborn child.
Amzz - 23-Jul-18 @ 9:43 PM
can you advise if employers are obliged to ensure that long distance wagon drivers have air conditioning in their cabs for these extreme temperatures.
mitch - 23-Jul-18 @ 6:40 PM
Hi, I work in a locked mental health rehab. Windows have restrictors and doors are locked. We have no air con and our estates team have rejected our application for it. One of our patient bedrooms is 31degrees and other areas vary between 29 and 31 degrees. Myself and my team of housekeepers are doing a very active job and are finding it unbearable to strip and make beds, mop and generally clean. Offices are hot too as they are very small and some have no windows that open. It beggars belief why there is no maximum temp in certain sectors. Surely for a mental health rehab this heat is doing our patients no good. Everyone is lethargic and agitated!! I have an ongoing health issue to called Crohns disease where I struggle to stay hydrated, I'm trying to drink enough but I'm sweating far more than I'm drinking. Any advice?
Sweatyworker - 23-Jul-18 @ 3:19 PM
I work in a residential home, due to some dementia we can only have one door open , as i look after the elderly not all want there windows open either. I find myself perspiring the whole day, uniform wet, back cold and to make things worse i suffer with asthma and chest infections due to poor lung capacity ..i get home absolutely exhausted..temperature is 24 to 26 degrees....we all at work are feeling it...what can we do T
T - 9-Jul-18 @ 6:04 PM
We are working in a kitchen at a busy college, the temp has been unbearable. The supervisor doesn't feel the heat she feels the cold. ( she needs to eat) we are suffering being short staffed and running around like lunatics. Thurs this week I almost passed out and all I got from my boss was a shrug. I take iced drinks into work and also wet wipes as to stop me perspiring all the time. Sorry to moan but could do with some advice.
Caz - 8-Jul-18 @ 4:51 PM
I work for the cafe in a well known supermarket. Worked there now three months. The air conditioning broke two days into my new job, a few days before this heat wave we’re having. Our cafe is all glass windows and we have the sun on us all day. We work with hot machinery and steam. We’ve been given a £10 desk fan that we have to sit next to a Bain Marie. So all it is doing is blowing around hot Bain Marie air. I have to wear a thick polo shirt, apron, trousers, boots and a cap. It gets to the point some days where I feel like I’m going to be sick. I dread going into work, the thought of it brings me to tears. I like my job for what it is and wouldn’t mind if it weren’t so hot. We’re due a huge refit at the end of August so the store manager has decided not to fix our air conditioning until we close for the refit, so we have to work through the rest of the summer with no cool air, not to mention one of my colleagues is 30 weeks pregnant and been begging to be transferred to checkouts as she can’t handle the heat or the work and nobody listens. Someone please help me, my job is becoming like torture
Sweatyheadlol - 6-Jul-18 @ 2:01 AM
I work in a high end department store. I don’t work for the store, I work for a company contracted to the store. They have air con but it doesn’t work and has never worked for the 4 years I’ve worked there. I am a cleaner. I work 30+ hours per week. The store has 3 floors and the 1st floor is where I do most of my work, and it is getting up to 40 degrees. I have nearly fainted on a few occasions. I have been told I have to wear trousers and shoes covering the whole of my foot - no sling backs. But their own staff are allowed to wear skirts, dresses and shorts, and a lot of them are still wearing sandals. The recommendation is that manual labour should work in temperatures below 27 degrees. What are my rights? Can I refuse to work in such temperatures? Can I wear a skirt? I have asked my area manager from my company if I can wear a skirt and if my male colleagues could wear shorts and his reply was “I doubt it.....” that was what he actually wrote in the email. That was it. So I don’t think he actually knows. So fed up. Feel constantly exhausted and sick and getting migraines daily. Don’t want to quit my job, I just want someone to actually understand what me and my colleagues are going through, because nobody seems to care about our health or safety.
FedupWorker - 5-Jul-18 @ 7:02 PM
I work in retail and our store was 29 degrees by 10.30 am, we have no working air con, we’ve been given four coolers (haha), deputy says we get extra breaks but we don’t, we do get water but not until it was raised to AM.As the day goes on the temperature rises. We all feel ill but still expected to work with the comment it’s fine to work slower. What can we do?
Ace - 5-Jul-18 @ 5:17 PM
I work in a factory on shifts...early shift is bearable reaching 28 on average but late shift we come in with temps over 30 and staying over r that for duration of shift, I do a very manual job processing steel and we have no air con, fan ect, nothing to move air at all,Monday night I had paramedics called due to heat exhaustion and when the issue is raised to management they just say they think its ok
Meat - 5-Jul-18 @ 2:29 PM
Na - Your Question:
I run a huge 18,000 square foot shop with half of it a basement floor. Our aircon has been broken for years however it completely broke on Monday during the heat wave. I have fought for coolers but they have only given me 4 for then entire shop.I have had young staff members pass out. Customers fainting and having accidents. All my staff have complained and my health and safety team are not supportive. They say it’s at the regional managers disgression and she says we have to stay open. The store is at an average 38 degrees constantly but is at its highest during the evenings from 3pm onwards. I have put forward to her that we do restricted opening times but have had no response yet. I do not want to have a serious accident on my hands.

Our Response:
Raise a formal grievance via your employer's documented procedure. ACAS or HSE might be able to offer advice.
SafeWorkers - 2-Jul-18 @ 2:15 PM
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