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Safe Working Temperatures

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 19 Feb 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 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
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
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