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Safe Working Temperatures

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 19 Jul 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.

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[Add a Comment]
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
Our company placed us in a new warehouse about two years ago, the offices have air conditioning. The waste air from the aircon is being blown into the warehouse as the units that do this have not been put outside which I think is against standard practice. Some days it reaches 35 degrees in the warehouse (even when it's 25 degrees outside) which is very uncomfortable! Is there anything we can do about this?
MartynS1 - 10-Jul-17 @ 9:16 PM
Mike - Your Question:
I am a welder in a factory and I wear shorts trousers and thick overalls plus extra ppe, leather sleeves and thick gauntlets. My welding bay was 35 degrees today and the rest of the factory was around 28degrees. This is due to no air circulation. As one of the H&S reps I brought this up with the head of H&S he is also the production manager. His suggestion was for us to keep drinking and if needed we could wash our faces to cool down a little. He also said that we could sit in the air conditioned office for five minutes. Is there anything else I can do to make them try to get the working environment to a reasonable temperature?

Our Response:
It's worth passing on any viable solutions to your employer, but drinking plenty, breaks in a cooler environment and cold water to cool down faces, wrists and other pulse points are probably adequate most of the time.
SafeWorkers - 4-Jul-17 @ 2:04 PM
hi I deliver motor parts for a living and I'm driving around in a small van all day with no air-conditioning, the temperature in my van yesterday was 36°. Is there any law about pictures inside vehicles for people who drive for a living
Gezza - 21-Jun-17 @ 2:15 PM
Bibi - Your Question:
Hi,I work as a head chef in North London and my kitchen reached 60 degrees yesterday with all the ovens, salamanders, fryers etc going. My eyes became quite swollen at the end of my shift. There is ventilation in the kitchen but it has broken and despite requests to the management, it has not been fixed. I go back to work on Thursday and am extremely worried about the health implications for me. Please advise.

Our Response:
If there is a higher rank to report to, you should do so. Hopefully your employer has a grievance policy that you can follow. It would be helpful to get some advice from a doctor and/or the HSE for further evidence and possible solutions to the problem.
SafeWorkers - 21-Jun-17 @ 12:52 PM
Lmh73 - Your Question:
Hi I work as a cook for the NHS, over the weekend the temperature in the kitchen was over 36 degrees, myself and 2 other colleagues had no energy whatsoever and felt very lethargic. We drank plenty of water but the heat was that extreme we were sweating a lot, it was disgusting to work in that heat. There is air conditioning but it is not switched on in the kitchen, we have asked for it to be switched on but it falls on deaf ears. Are we within our rights to walk out in that heat? Tia lisa

Our Response:
No, walking out is rarely the right approach. Detail your issue in a reasonable manner in writing and send it to senior management. Be sure to include rational information including: WHY it's an issue (how it affects your performance, any related hygiene issues etc)
WHERE it occurs (which room etc)
WHEN it's a problem (during your working day or shorter sections when ovens are on etc)
HOW you think it could be resolved (installation of air condition, cooler uniforms, fans etc)
Speak to a union rep if you have one.
If this doesn't help, raise a formal grievance via your employer's grievance procedure.
SafeWorkers - 21-Jun-17 @ 11:03 AM
I am a welder in a factory and I wear shorts trousers and thick overalls plus extra ppe, leather sleeves and thick gauntlets. My welding bay was 35 degrees today and the rest of the factory was around 28degrees. This is due to no air circulation. As one of the H&S reps I brought this up with the head of H&S he is also the production manager. His suggestion was for us to keep drinking and if needed we could wash our faces to cool down a little. He also said that we could sit in the air conditioned office for five minutes. Is there anything else I can do to make them try to get the working environment to a reasonable temperature?
Mike - 20-Jun-17 @ 7:09 PM
I drive an hgv and are a manual worker on my job is there any temperature that we all can work in please....
jonny - 20-Jun-17 @ 6:13 PM
I work in a bookies with no air can, there are 2 fans but these weren't really cutting it today. What's the highest temperature I can work in? I'm thinking over 30 celsius.
Hot stuff - 19-Jun-17 @ 11:03 PM
Is there a legal temperature is placed such as Burger King with no air con?
Pablo - 19-Jun-17 @ 8:21 PM
Hi i Work as a bus driver. And the bus was 40 degrees today with no air con. We have a tiny fan that blows hot air. Anything you can help with please
Mr_ince - 19-Jun-17 @ 7:48 PM
Hi, I work as a head chef in North London and my kitchen reached 60 degrees yesterday with all the ovens, salamanders, fryers etc going. My eyes became quite swollen at the end of my shift. There is ventilation in the kitchen but it has broken and despite requests to the management, it has not been fixed. I go back to work on Thursday and am extremely worried about the health implications for me. Please advise.
Bibi - 19-Jun-17 @ 5:33 PM
Hi there. I work in a showroom that is made of polytunnels (used for plant nurseries) Indoor temperatures easily reach 35C when it's only 25 outside It is due to be 31 outside this Wednesday so god only knows how hot it is in there. Surely it must reach a temperature when it reaches an illegal limit I return from work each day dizzy and with a pounding headache And yes I drink plenty of water.
K - 19-Jun-17 @ 2:50 PM
sutty - Your Question:
Hi, I work outside digging up roads. Is there anything my employer is legally bound to do in order to help protect me while working in hot weather?

Our Response:
Not really, there is no real legal obligation for employers to provide sun protection (such as lotion or sunglasses etc). Your employer should make sure you are aware of the dangers posed in working in high temperatures and in sunlight etc. If you discuss this with your employer they may be willing to provide breathable fabric clothing, sunscreen lotion for exposed parts and cold water etc?
SafeWorkers - 19-Jun-17 @ 2:04 PM
Hi I work as a cook for the NHS, over the weekend the temperature in the kitchen was over 36 degrees, myself and 2 other colleagues had no energy whatsoever and felt very lethargic. We drank plenty of water but the heat was that extreme we were sweating a lot, it was disgusting to work in that heat. There is air conditioning but it is not switched on in the kitchen, we have asked for it to be switched on but it falls on deaf ears. Are we within our rights to walk out in that heat? Tia lisa
Lmh73 - 19-Jun-17 @ 12:15 PM
At123 - Your Question:
Hi I work in a very small office and I am currently 25 weeks pregnant. All we have is a tiny window and very small electrical fans in the office. The temperatures have been soaring and I have been leaving work soaking wet with sweat and feeling very uncomfortable. Think the temperature in the office has been reaching between 25-30 some days! Can you advise me if this is legal and if there is anything I can legally say to my boss about it? Thank you

Our Response:
Please read the above article, from the section entitled "Maximum temperatures" onwards. We hope that it's clear what you can do in theses circumstances.
SafeWorkers - 19-Jun-17 @ 10:22 AM
I took my theory test today in a test centre and even-tough the AC was on near the end of my test. it was very humid not hot, i even started to sweat and feel very lightheaded also there were no windows and the door was shut, The invigilator saw my hand go up and did nothing which made me miss 3 marks off passing. Should I make a complaint to PERSON or not? Thanks
des - 17-Jun-17 @ 3:13 PM
Hi, I work outside digging up roads. Is there anything my employer is legally bound to do in order to help protect me while working in hot weather?
sutty - 15-Jun-17 @ 6:31 PM
Hi I work in a very small office and I am currently 25 weeks pregnant. All we have is a tiny window and very small electrical fans in the office. The temperatures have been soaring and I have been leaving work soaking wet with sweat and feeling very uncomfortable. Think the temperature in the office has been reaching between 25-30 some days! Can you advise me if this is legal and if there is anything I can legally say to my boss about it? Thank you
At123 - 15-Jun-17 @ 9:26 AM
Maca - Your Question:
I am a driver we work 9 hrs a day with only 40 minutes break at lunch time last week the temperature in my van reached well in excess of 35 degrees and the employer will not put air con in the vans drivers were coming in looking like they were about to pass out but still got made to go straight back out on the road within 2_3 minutes is this legall I fear a driver could easily be in an accident.

Our Response:
If you feel that your safety is at risk, you should make a formal complaint; there are no real employment laws about maximum temperatures though. Do the windows on the vans open?
SafeWorkers - 30-May-17 @ 2:23 PM
I am a driver we work 9 hrsa day with only 40 minutes break at lunch time last week the temperature in my van reached well in excess of 35 degrees and the employer will not put air con in the vans drivers were coming in looking like they were about to pass out but still got made to go straight back out on the road within2_3 minutes is this legall I fear a driver could easily be in an accident .
Maca - 28-May-17 @ 12:00 PM
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
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