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Safe Working Temperatures

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 14 Jun 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]
We frequent a pub to listen to music and dance the night away BUT the temperature is totally unacceptable the landlady closes all the windows and doors and it gets just like a “sweat box” you feel like you are in the shower ....We have asked for air con etc but to no avail Are there rules and regulations on heat in this stuation
Crossie - 14-Jun-18 @ 6:07 PM
I work in a laundry with inadequate air conditioning and no other ventilation where the temperature is between 35-40 degrees. I have headaches every day, constantly tired and generally feeling unwell. They are looking into getting another air conditioning unit added but this has been going on for weeks and there is no urgency about it as they don't have to work in these conditions. I don't want to cause problems or give them reason to dismiss me but I don't know how much longer I can carry on like this. I want to tell them I can't work in these conditions any more till they sort it out but I'm not very good at putting my point across and hate confrontation. Don't know what I should do.
Norahs - 11-Jun-18 @ 10:07 PM
macfee - Your Question:
We work in printed labels no vents, new roof, temp very high wear food hats to keep the heat in and over ears which makes it intolerable.Due to BRC regulations the wearing off hats is a must Hitler style.What can be done to,especially when we drop sweat onto the labels.

Our Response:
Make a representation to your employer; preferably involve your union for support or to do the negotiations on your behalf. Let us know what the result is.
SafeWorkers - 1-Jun-18 @ 11:15 AM
We work in printed labels no vents, new roof, temp very high wear food hats to keep the heat in and over ears which makes it intolerable.Due to BRC regulations the wearing off hats is a must Hitler style.What can be done to,especially when we drop sweat onto the labels.
macfee - 31-May-18 @ 1:11 AM
I work for a company that i can't Name but for the last 2 weeks or so with this hot whether we've had our air conditioning has broke and won't be fixed for another 10 days I'm just after some advice as sometimes the temperature in some places reach between 35-40°c what can me and the other staff do about it sometimes it's even hotter in the kitchen and bar
Ash - 29-May-18 @ 10:45 PM
Ernie - Your Question:
I work in a food processing factory and we keep our production area at 8 degrees C. I had somebody complaining that its too cold although we provide proper PPE and breaks. Any advice on this? Can we get in trouble with this? Thank you

Our Response:
Here is the advice from the Health and Safety Exec
SafeWorkers - 18-May-18 @ 3:30 PM
I work in a food processing factory and we keep our production area at 8 degrees C. I had somebody complaining that its too cold although we provide proper PPE and breaks. Any advice on this? Can we get in trouble with this? Thank you
Ernie - 18-May-18 @ 9:16 AM
Hi I work in a warehouse type off shelter dealing with motor vehicles which 10 at time are running i inspect them and with the heat which it like 35 degrees in there,surly that can’t be safe? Any advice please thank you
J - 8-May-18 @ 3:00 PM
Hi I work in starbucks as a barista and our company refuses to fix the broken air conditioner, and work coffee machines and steaming wands the temperature on a normal day can leave colleagues and myself with certain disarray with it being too hot inside with no windows in the coffee shop to the point of our customers complaining also. Now with temperatures increasing and no maximum temperature set by law, staff and myself find it seriously hard to work without feeling like we are going to pass out, how would I be able to tackle this ?
Phe - 19-Apr-18 @ 8:19 PM
I work in a warehouse at night and it's getting as low as - 6 is that safe to work in
Farley - 1-Mar-18 @ 5:26 PM
N - Your Question:
Hello, I work in a nursery, we are in a big hall as we are a pack up nursery! On Monday are aircon machine stopped working, it's been so cold inside that I was able to walk outside and not be cold! This machine also is our heater, the machine was said to be fixed on that Monday as we called the owners of the hall, it wasn't able to be fixed! We had to wait till Thursday for it to be fixed, the person wasn't able to fix it. It's now been a week. Where do I stand? I never felt so cold, I've worn thermals under my uniform and even wear two jumpers as I can't stay warm!

Our Response:
Have you asked your employer for portable heaters while you're waiting for it to be fixed etc?
SafeWorkers - 27-Feb-18 @ 2:42 PM
Hello, I work in a nursery, we are in a big hall as we are a pack up nursery! On Monday are aircon machine stopped working, it's been so cold inside that I was able to walk outside and not be cold! This machine also is our heater, the machine was said to be fixed on that Monday as we called the owners of the hall, it wasn't able to be fixed! We had to wait till Thursday for it to be fixed, the person wasn't able to fix it. It's now been a week. Where do I stand? I never felt so cold, I've wornthermals under my uniform and even wear two jumpers as I can't stay warm!
N - 25-Feb-18 @ 3:26 PM
Hi, I belong to a gym and for some time now the air conditioning has not worked properly, with temperatures over 101 degrees.This has caused members to vomit during classes, collapse, feel dizzy and generally unwell.We have all complained locally and to HQ to no avail.Is there anything we can do legally to ensure the problem is solved? Many thanks.
spinner - 19-Feb-18 @ 7:58 PM
Lots of complaints but no helpful solutions. If it's too cold to work it should be a health & safety issue & dealt with as a matter of ergency. If not get everyone to walk out. Just not good enough
Lin - 7-Feb-18 @ 12:23 AM
staceylou - Your Question:
I'm a sewing machinist and it's 14 degrees a large section of our windows are broken and it's draughty. Windows have been broken for years. we are having to wear our coats. heaters are broken too

Our Response:
Have you complained to your employer? You haven't really given enough information here.
SafeWorkers - 19-Jan-18 @ 11:17 AM
I'm a sewing machinist and it's 14 degrees a large section of our windows are broken and it's draughty. Windows have been broken for years. we are having to wear our coats. heaters are broken too
staceylou - 16-Jan-18 @ 2:22 PM
I'm working in weaehose..there is 8*C in middle of day. In mornings that's less. We have 15 and 30 min breaks.What law is on my side to not freeze in here but still keep working? Thanks.
Aerox - 18-Dec-17 @ 12:29 PM
Me - Your Question:
Working for an ambulance private ambulance firm. Not been issued a jacket and working in conditions so far as low as -2. I have started to wear my personal jacket to stay warm. Where do I stand?

Our Response:
The law is a little vague on whether an employer should provide this... according to Healthy Working Lives: "waterproof, weatherproof, or insulated clothing is subject to the PPE at work regulations only if its use is necessary to protect employees against adverse climatic conditions that could otherwise affect their health and safety".
If you are expected to wear a uniform and the uniform doesn't provide protection against the cold weather (and you have to spend a significant time outdoors), it's reasonable to wear one of your own. If the company wants you to wear a uniform they should ensure it's suitable for the conditions.
SafeWorkers - 11-Dec-17 @ 12:20 PM
Working for an ambulance private ambulance firm. Not been issued a jacket and working in conditions so far as low as -2. I have started to wear my personal jacket to stay warm. Where do I stand?.
Me - 10-Dec-17 @ 2:37 PM
Hi i work in a kitchen and during winter the walls are dripping with condensation. There is no heating apart from the cookers and the extractor fan appears to be blowing inwards not outwards. When we leave teatowels out to dry overnight in the kitchen, during winter they are still damp in the morning. Ive developed a cough which im unsure is due to the conditions. Any suggestions or is this normal conditions for a kitchen? There are hoods over the cookers themselves but nothing over the sinks or stwrilising sink.
Alice - 22-Nov-17 @ 6:57 PM
I work in a day centres for people with disabilities who feelthe cold as they do not move aroundmuch. What would be a reasonabletemperature bearing in mind we all work in a very big room
Millie - 16-Nov-17 @ 6:50 AM
I work in a call centre, the air con sensors are apparently the wrong way round so when it's hot outside it's boiling in the office and when it's cold outside the vents have a constant flow of cold air. Surely this is spreading disease like wildfire ? To make matters worse we are strictly not allowed any jackets as it's a breach of compliance. Everyday I cough and sneeze, I can feel massive lumps in my throat so whatever conditions we are working in is causing my glands to swell up and I can feel the muscles in my body contracting every so often trying to retain heat. I'm not sure if this is related because I don't know how to measure it but I've also been getting light headed which indicates a lack of oxygen but that could be unrelated to be fair as I have asthma.
Jamie - 8-Nov-17 @ 8:58 PM
lillilac - Your Question:
I work in a large shop in Scotland with a door that is always open. I work 11 or 12 hour shifts, and while this was fine in the summer, its completely implausible now that winter is coming.We have no heating. None. It is below freezing temperatures outside and we have the doors wide to the world, but my boss doesn't like us wearing jumpers, scarves, hats etc because it doesn't fit the brand image, so we have to stand around dressed lightly and I worry for my collegues and my own safety.What can I do? It's intolerable!

Our Response:
Make a formal complaint using your company's documented procedures. If the employer will not allow you to wear additional warm items or provide heating, contact HSE for advice. It's unlikely that your employer is breaking any laws unfortunately.
SafeWorkers - 1-Nov-17 @ 12:03 PM
I work in a large shop in Scotland with a door that is always open. I work 11 or 12 hour shifts, and while this was fine in the summer, its completely implausible now that winter is coming. We have no heating. None. It is below freezing temperatures outside and we have the doors wide to the world, but my boss doesn't like us wearing jumpers, scarves, hats etc because it doesn't fit the brand image, so we have to stand around dressed lightly and I worry for my collegues and my own safety. What can i do? It's intolerable!
lillilac - 30-Oct-17 @ 8:20 AM
I work in an ice rink, so obviously the temperatures are below average expectations, however recently part of the job of my department involves sitting in a small booth literally on the ice rink (which ranges between -3 to -4.5 degrees most days). The small, cheap heaters the mangers purchased for us have broken and our provided uniform includes a fleece, which is not sufficient in this new job role. They insist on making us sit there, on our own per shift, with no heater and only a fleece to keep warm for 7+ hours and provide a maximum of 2 hot drinks a shift which are difficult to get as we can not leave the booth as we have a Till and cash.
EllT98 - 24-Oct-17 @ 4:31 PM
I work in a care home, the heat is unbearable. There is no air conditioning,I work 12hr shifts, as soon as I walk unto the unit the heat hits me, Isweat profusely, it zaps me of off energy. I am now seeing the doctor with breathing problems. Could this be due to the heat.
goodlady - 16-Oct-17 @ 9:09 PM
hi i work outdoors in a warehouse loading and unloading wagons so in the winter it is freezing is there a time scale on the frequent hot drinks as we only get a 20min break and a 25 min break thanks
johnty - 12-Oct-17 @ 7:24 AM
I work in a local shop which has open fridges. It is absolutely freezing and I need to wear a jacket even in the heat of summer. The air con is on full blast and customers complain to me about the cold. I get so cold and can't feel my hands or fleet
Karen - 5-Sep-17 @ 11:41 AM
I work in a factory. Hygiene laundry no windows sealed unit. With a heated tunnel. Temperatures reach 30-35 degrees for about 6hrs a day. No proper air filter systems. Water is provided. On an 8hrs shift managers are moaning that we take a5min heat break one in morning one in an afternoon. Also manual heavy work no seating in factory
Clare - 19-Jul-17 @ 9:15 PM
I work in a chain retail store where there is no air con and it's so hot and humid at the moment management don't seem to bothered as they are in there cool offices upstairs is there anything we can do complain to s we have tried everything and nothing gets done
Mushy - 11-Jul-17 @ 4:13 PM
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