Q.Is there a legal minimum temperature for working in a warehouse?
(L Burns, 9 December 2021)
A.An employer has a duty of care towards their employees. They also have the responsibility of making sure that the workplace is a comfortable environment to be in. Every employer must follow health and safety regulations that are in place to protect employees and make sure that their working conditions are safe. They cannot expect you to work in an environment that is unsafe or bad for your health.
The Law on Legal Minimum Temperatures in a Warehouse
The government’s regulations state that employers must ensure that the temperature in the workplace is ‘reasonable’ at all times.
The law around minimum temperatures for working is, however, vague. The legislation says the temperature should be a minimum of 16c unless the work involves a lot of physical activity. In this case the advised minimum can drop to 13c.
However, the guidelines take into account the varying nature of the ‘workplace’. They give leeway for different working conditions”. That means there is technically no single legal temperature that can be applied.
If you are working in a warehouse then it is likely that you will be doing a lot of physical activity and the guideline to use would be the 13c.
If you feel that the temperature in the warehouse is unacceptable then you have every right to ask for it to be raised. Use the guidelines above as your basis and find out what the current temperature is. If it is significantly less than 13 degrees Celsius then you will have a strong case for having it increased.
Temperatures & Health & Safety
Your health and safety is paramount. You can refuse to do any work, if you believe that your working conditions infringe your rights.
Your trade union representative should be able to help you make an official complaint to get the situation resolved. If it is not possible to raise the warehouse temperature, you may wish to ask for some other adjustments.
Adjustments could include the ability to take more regular breaks to reduce the effect of working in cold temperatures. You might also request that your employer provides some appropriate protective clothing to help.