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Safe Working Temperatures

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 5 Dec 2019 | 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.


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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Hi im a maintenance worker and i am being made to jet wash outdoors in cold temperatures (its december in the uk) is this allowed or can i refuse to do this without consequences?
Carl - 5-Dec-19 @ 3:58 PM
Iam heart patient and having high blood pressure issues and iam on medication 4 tabs a day and i work full time at night shift and my employer disconnected all heating in foundry and provide us some thermal clothes now I work in this cold nights and having pain in my heart side they dont provide any heating in work place what I should do ?
Sunny - 5-Dec-19 @ 3:20 AM
Hi I am bus driver and after 1 hour driving temperature in the bus is around 5 Celsius degreethis is legal? Drivers reportedlow temperature but company ignored this.
Jens - 30-Nov-19 @ 12:10 AM
I work in a kitchen and in summer we were reaching temperatures of 39-40°c away from the equipment. Now it's winter we are.currently at 11-12°c and it's only going to get colder. We have 1 heater, no windows and a extractor fan that pretty much only works on the 2 highest settings. We shouldn't be wearing hoodies on shift but me and another girl have to under our whites as it is too cold. Any suggestions to help? Please
Morrigan - 21-Nov-19 @ 4:23 PM
I would like to know how to create enough of a media stink to stop Supermarkets making their staff work in inhumane conditions in the open freezer sections. Like most shoppers I hate the freezer section it's so cold I can't think! But I can leave the shop. The staff have to work 8 hours in arctic conditions this is 2019! I'm sorry but that isn't ok. Also open supermarket fridges contribute 1% of Britain's carbon emissions. I wrote to a CEO and got fobbed off because I am merely one person singing in the dark. Our workers deserve better....alot better! What can I do? At present I don't even tweet but I can learn. Thank you for listening
Dissapointed Custome - 22-Sep-19 @ 7:56 AM
Hi I'm a security guard working nights. I've just refused to do my last patrol due to the air con being left on constantly on the floors. It's freezing. It's taking affect across the whole building and I'm sitting in the basement with a blanket and hot water bottle to keep warm. I cannot stand being cold and I believe air con should be on timers. It's been left on cause the office workers are too warm when they arrive for work. Well I'm a member of staff and I don't want it on all night cause then I'm uncomfortable and find it hard to work.
Sam - 1-Aug-19 @ 4:32 AM
Hi I'm a security guard working nights. I've just refused to do my last patrol due to the air con being left on constantly on the floors. It's freezing. It's taking affect across the whole building and I'm sitting in the basement with a blanket and hot water bottle to keep warm. I cannot stand being cold and I believe air con should be on timers. It's been left on cause the office workers are too warm when they arrive for work. Well I'm a member of staff and I don't want it on.
Sam - 1-Aug-19 @ 4:30 AM
Thursday I was working in a nursing home the temp outside reached 38 and upstairs it was 36 it was not good for residents and staff were feeling dizzy yesterday the temperature in the building was 32 something needs to be done for care home its disgusting
Shireen - 27-Jul-19 @ 3:04 PM
During the heatwave yesterday 25/7/19 I worked in a nursing home caring for 17 high dependency individuals. The temperature outside was 38°C at the hottest time, inside the nursing home it was 33°C. I told my manager we needed extra fans however they did not bring any in until 9pm at night after we had completed our 13 hour shift. I think it’s disgusting that there is no one holding private care home owners accountable for maintaining a safe working environment for staff during the hot summer months (let alone the residents for which we care). I also think it’s disgusting that there is no safe maximum temperature laws in this country. how can we look after our elderly and vulnerable when managers don’t look after their staff.
Dani - 26-Jul-19 @ 9:51 PM
I work in a store and the ac is not working properly, girls are sat on tills profusely sweating and feeling ill, is there anything we can do about it.
Fiery - 25-Jul-19 @ 5:44 PM
I work in a kitchen and with today’s temperature it’s been up to 43 degrees in there today. We have no windows in there, just an opening to the bar where there is a back door. We had an extractor and 3 fans going and it was just unbearable. Is there anything I can do? Don’t really want to be awkward and refuse to work but during the last hour or two and still not I have stomach cramps from the heat. TIA
Burns - 25-Jul-19 @ 5:27 PM
We have several Fiat Ducato based buses made by Mellor, in the summer with the Air-Con not working, the fan motor only blowing air at the outside temp and a window opening of approx 81 sq inches it becomes extremely hotis there anything under H&S Law we can force our employer to do to make it cooler in the cab?
TRIGG - 23-Jul-19 @ 12:38 AM
I do manual work in a factory that is pretty fast pace and normally the work is easy to deal with only today the temperature in there hit 31.7c there is water available but its been a very difficult day .
Rich - 4-Jul-19 @ 5:14 PM
Hi, I’m working in a store that the AC is currently broken. It has been broken for 6 weeks. The current temp in the store is 33.5. It is so hot in there that all the chillers and freezers have now broken, also all the chocolate has melt to liquid as it’s to hot. Even the customer are complaining about the heat and leaving the store. The company has not provided us with a fan. They will not lets us close the store and stop trading. There answer was to keep drinking lots of water and to keep door open (which already are open and making no difference). Is there anything we can do??
Zoe - 1-Jul-19 @ 2:46 AM
I work in a farm shop and my extraction fan is broken and my bos hasn't supplied me with any means to cool down. I'm working in a 36.7 degree kitchen. What am I ment to do . Can I leave work ?
Squeeze - 29-Jun-19 @ 1:55 PM
I work in a retail store the building has no air con or heating for the winter. People walk into our store and walk out because it’s cooler outside. Last year The store reached 38 degrees! I’m pregnant this year and we’re already at 30 degrees. My manager has allowed us to wear polo t-shirts instead of shirts but it’s still too hot. My feet are swealing up and I’m feeling dizzy. What rights do I have knowing that I’m 23 weeks pregnant?
Sam - 24-Jun-19 @ 1:10 PM
Hi I am working for law company as a cleaner and preparing hot drinks for meetings.I am working in small kitchen without AC and the room is too hot 27 - 28C. even if I leave the door open.The meeting rooms are also too hot.People are often complaining that the AC is not working and the rooms are too hot.My manager doesn’t let me wear just a west and pocked tabard.I have to wear t-shirt with long or short sleeves but I feel too hot because the pocket tabard is made from strong fabric.I feel overheated every day .I have a heart valve problem and thyroid gland.What can I do ?
Kate - 14-May-19 @ 10:24 PM
I work in a school I work in the swimming area and the thermometer says 36 degrees it is so hot, what are my rights to this? Thanks Rhonda
Ronnie - 14-May-19 @ 1:20 PM
I work behind a bar at the weekend and in the summer my boss has decided we have to wear a uniform (a polo shirt and trousers) I'm perfectly okay wearing a uniform however he has decided that he wont be providing any kind of jumper and we also can't wear our own as he says its "scruffy". I'm constantly cold there even on the hottest days in the summer. I know the law says the temperatures have to be within a certain limit and I believe that by those standards everything is okay but regardless of whether or not IT'S not cold... I'M cold. Is he allowed to say that I'm not allowed to wear a cardigan or a jumper and am I within my rights to refuse to work if that's the case?
toocold - 23-Apr-19 @ 8:58 AM
I work in a mill cleaning for 4 hours in a morning, there is no air con and I'm not allowed a break, is there a law that states I cant go to the mills shop for a cold drink if it's too hot, as they say they won't pay me 4 hours if I have a break.
Vicky - 11-Apr-19 @ 3:24 PM
I work in a factory and the room I work in the air con does not work and it gets very hot and I have to wear a uniform and hat and long pants and the boss does not want to pay money getting it fix and they don’t allowed people to go home if it gets over 35
Ruby red - 23-Jan-19 @ 9:43 PM
I’m a palliative care nurse, work in patients homes overnight on a night shift. Most our patients turn heating off .Now it’s january overnight about 2 in the morning.The temp is dropping to 3 degrees... I’m absolutely freezing n feel like I can’t work properly as I’m too cold.What are my rights...
Jilli - 8-Jan-19 @ 7:05 PM
on code red days when the government is advising people you should stay in doors and be prepared to evacuate in case of bush fires how are we supposed to continue working? I travel for work and could quite easily get trapped by a fire should one occur I do my best to stay informed, children are sent home from school but what do parents do they can’t take time off because it’s to hot? What does the government expect parents to do with the children if they are legally required to work? I work in a variety of homes some don’t even have air conditioning should I expect my employer to buy there clients new air conditioners?
Blue - 5-Jan-19 @ 3:34 AM
Hi, I work in a warehouse, big shutter door always open, no heating at all.. I have asked if we could have heaters by our workstation but we're told no as the electric would cost too much as it would take forever to warm the place up.I'm dreading January as last year it was -4 inside the warehouse... What can I do?
Sarah - 14-Dec-18 @ 11:48 PM
Chatwins alsageron a main road has no heating ondoor open so fumes what can we do as customers
Ann - 11-Dec-18 @ 9:15 PM
I have staff that secure a car park for a university. There is a gatehouse for them to sit in but there is no heating because the generator is broken. With the temperature dropping as much as it is should I contact the HSE? My guys man the car park from 0530hrs until 2245hrs.
Scotty3984 - 29-Oct-18 @ 8:24 AM
I work in a shop where the heating broke in January and the area manager's only response was "jog on the spot" we have no heating on the shop floor and customers always complain about it being too cold for them, staff were frequently having to wear coats throughout the summer and now that it is approaching winter even with coats and thermal layers the temperature is becoming even more unbearable. Is this a reason to contact HSE?
Freezing - 27-Oct-18 @ 11:56 AM
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
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
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