Legal Maximum & Minimum Working Temperatures, When’s it Too Cold or Hot?

Too cold at work? Surely you can’t be expected to work in extremes of temperature in winter and summer? Many workers are unaware of what the legal maximum working temperatures might be in their workplace.

In recent years, UK employees have been having to contend with increasingly extreme temperature ranges in the work environment. Summer heatwaves and winter cold snaps create difficult working conditions.

Our guide looks at the legal working temperatures in the UK, and gives an overview of which laws apply to the legal temperature at work.

Legal Temperature to Work in the UK

The law on legal workplace temperatures is vague, and is dealt with under the Health Safety & Welfare Regulations (1992).

Regulation 7 of this law states:-

“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.” See: Regulation 7.

However, this vague definition of safe working temperatures does not mean that employers have no legal responsibilities when a workplace becomes too hot or too cold. The definition is left open to interpretation due to the varying natures of workplaces.

A reasonable temperature in an environment with industrial ovens, such as a bakery, would be different to that in an office.

Legal Minimum Working Temperatures UK

The minimum working temperatures recommended by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are 13ºC and 16ºC.

Can you legally go home if your workplace falls below this level? Sadly not. This will be up to your employer to determine. It is very unfortunate that the law in this area is vague. The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992 simply place an obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” workplace temperature.

See Also: Working in cold temperatures UK – a guide on the law, and employer’s duty of care in different working environments.

Minimum Working Temperatures – an Overview

  • In a workplace where there is physical activity the minimum safe working temperature is 13ºC. 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. It also applies to factories where light work is carried out.

Minimum Office Temperatures in the UK

The minimum office temperature in the UK is 16ºC. UK workplace health and safety law suggests this as the lowest temperature suitable for office work. However, if the temperature in your office drops below 16ºC this does not mean you can go home. Despite a minimum working temperature being set down in law, the legislation is vague. It simply places an obligation on employers to make sure the temperature is “reasonable”.

If Your Office is Too Cold

If your office is too cold, it’s best to raise the issue with management and ask that they take steps to make the workplace more comfortable.

Despite the law not offering the ability for workers to leave due to low temperatures, employers do still have a duty of care to ensure your health and wellbeing at work. A cold office reduces productivity a lot. It’s in your employer’s best interests to have a warm environment for working.

In a situation where pipes are frozen, this may be grounds for an office to close. HSE rules say that workplaces must provide access to a toilet, hand washing facilities and drinking water.

Minimum Warehouse & Factory Temperatures

Health and safety law suggests that the minimum working temperature in warehouses and factories should be 13 ºC . However, this does not mean that a workplace must close if the temperature falls below that level. The law is quite vague and simply suggests that employers need to ensure a “reasonable” temperature.

That said, cold working temperatures should be factored into risk assessments. The effects of cold stress on workplace safety should be looked at when deciding if the workplace is safe to continue work activity. Many employers will issue equipment such as warm and safe uniforms after conducting a risk assessment.

Controlling Low Workplace 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.

What Temperature is Too Hot to Work?

Despite the difficulties associated with hot working environments, there is no legal maximum safe working temperature in the UK. Employers are required to make sure work temperatures inside buildings are “reasonable”.

However, there are legal requirements which employers must meet:-

1. Conducting Risk Assessments

The Health & Safety at Work Regulations (1999) says Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of— (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work” See Regulation 3.

Extremes of temperature can be considered a risk to employee health.

2. Maintaining Reasonable Workplace Temperatures

If your workplace is subject to very hot temperatures, then the hazard should be identified in your workplace risk assessment. Steps should then be taken to ensure the temperature remains at a comfortable level to protect employee health.

HSE Guidance on thermal comfort outlines the ways in which assessments can be made to determine if workplace temperatures are reasonable, or if there’s a risk of heat stress or other heat related health issues.

What to Do if Your Workplace Temperature is Too Hot

If your workplace temperature is too hot, in the first instance you should raise the situation with your employer or union rep.

A comfortable workplace temperature is important for productivity. Your employer should be aware of their duty of care for you at work, and make accommodations to ensure you are safe at work.

Health Effects of High Temperatures at Work

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. It’s never ideal for your staff to suffer from heat stress in the workplace.

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. In extreme temperatures workers can become very unwell due to the effects of heat.

Other common medical conditions associated with working in overheated workplaces include asthma, throat infections, and rhinitis. In hot countries such as Australia there have been well documented cases of workers dying on the job due to the effects of heat in their work environment.

Recommendations for the UK

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.

If you are an employer it is important to consider the welfare of your employees. If you take reasonable steps to provide a reasonable safe workplace temperature your employees will be more productive.

Controlling High Workplace 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.

Further reading:-

31 thoughts on “Legal Maximum & Minimum Working Temperatures, When’s it Too Cold or Hot?

  1. Ernestas says:

    UK is a joke country with “laws”. Everything here is “reasonable”. Reasonable is relative. You can make and blend it in your favour as long as it takes. Nothing specific. As long you are not dead from the heat it is REASONABLE. I’m not only talking about temperature but many other things in your workplace. Most of the tasks can be “reasonable”, the employer is expecting you to do many tasks even if it has no connection with your contract. But of course it can be REASONABLE. Lawmakers are lame

  2. Pat says:

    Having issues of cold took temperatures on my phone which I never done before as temperatures are sometimes 6…. Lucky if 13… That is westcroft Morrison’s

  3. Worried says:

    My husband was hospitalised with heatstroke air con broke in hgv lorry he collapsed while at the wheel can’t remember anything thing just that he tried to drive the lorry to the shade it was so hot like being in a green house in the cab the temp was 33 out side and hotter in the cab he was in hospital 3 days the doctors said he cooked and if they had not got to him he could of died he had been drinking water all day to keep hydrated the doctors said it was the broken aircon that caused it I am trying to find out if this as happened to anyone else .we think the aircon should be on check list but is not at the moment in the uk .

    • Johanna Dyche says:

      My dad is having the opposite to this, he’s a hgv driver and has no working heating in his lorries, numerous times this has been mentioned to be fixed and ignored. I’m worried for my dad as it’s freezing temperatures and he’s out all hours! Heating/air con should be checked regularly for sure!!

  4. Eva says:

    I work in a Nursery growing plants in NewZealand. The conditions are not good for the winter ..We have no heating facilities in our smoko room not hot running water our hot house has big rips in the roof no heating in the hothouse .When it rains thats the worst .is that legal

  5. Babypop says:

    Hi we can live in the state of New Jersey and my husband works and I warehouse loading trucks. We’ve had a bed Heatwave and they have industrial-size fans and they don’t give him breaks. They Supply them with water. But he has been to the hospital twice and he had to go home a couple time and just started the job because he’s been showing signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. The hospital couldn’t figure out what was going on but I read the symptoms he’s been nauseated and throwing up and he passed out on time at work also. Is this legal?

  6. Dee says:

    My husband works in a warehouse and he has been sick from the Heat and he doesn’t get any breaks at all. I live in New Jersey and they don’t require breaks but in a heatwave working with in a warehouse with industrial-size fans in the heat with no breaks he’s been getting sick and actually went up in the hospital twice. I think it was from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. They didn’t really know what it was but he the symptoms were of a heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

  7. D says:

    My husband has bern working in a heatwave they don’t let you have any breaks they provide water and have industrial fans but he’s wound up in the er twice. I thought it was from the heat they seem unsure about it. He’s had to leave a few times because he was throwing up.

  8. Parkcy says:

    I work in a factory in Niagara Falls Ontario. At what temperature is it to hot to work safely in . Is there any charts that we can refer to. Ty

  9. Fey says:

    Hi I work in a fruit and veg shop and in the winter time it’s so cold in the shop that it’s colder inside than out, as the shop door is open as well as the back door creating a draft one heater is provided at the till but is just a gas flame and doesn’t work well plus during the job I’ll be stocking shelves and stuff so won’t be near the heater, its sometimes is below 0 degrees and my hands turn blue due to the cold what should I do ?

  10. Kaz says:

    I am a support worker, working in a care home, wearing PPE continuously in this heatwave, the sweat is dripping off us all, but we was told today that we are No longer allowed to use fans in communal areas ! ?? Fans are only allowed to be used in clients bedrooms !

  11. Sotja says:

    I’m working at a company CSI(Consolidated Starch Industries) that makes starch,the starch we make must be dry meaning heat is included…the drying machines has a lot of heat which is 200°C.lot of hazardous there it’s too risky. At the same time we don’t get heat allowence,no medical to make sure that workers stay healthy ,good condition to work.we really need help

  12. Randy Lee says:

    What is the maximum recommended temperature in a hot central kitchen in a tropical country? I am writing from Singapore. Thanks.

  13. Nigel says:

    Hi. I work in dry cleaning and it can get very hot and sticky humid. We do have fans but unless you are standing directly in front or near them they are of no benefit. In the wash room where all cleaning is done the windows dont open, they are sealed closed and no air conditioning or any form of ventilation which leaves us extremely hot and sweaty. My boss is very aware of the conditions but when it is mentioned to him he turns it around and makes a joke of it and laughs. I am pretty sure it exceeds the recommended temperature of 30 degrees . Some staff has made comments about the conditions but says a different comment when the boss is around. Is there anything legal that can be done about this

  14. Shampa says:

    Hello there I am renting a service office. My office has got windows but can’t open them for any fresh air. They are fixed window. I have air condition in my office but the controls are in my neighbours office. Now the problem is at times in my office when my neighbour puts the temperature to low level, I feel very cold. During winter, when my neighbour puts the heating on I feel very hot. This is because my neigbour has one vent and I have two in my office. So the cold temperature makes it too cold in summer and hot temperature makes it too hot in winter. Situation is particularly worst when I am working but my neighbour is not available to reduce the temperature accordingly. I have been raising this issue with my land lord since last 2 years.But unfortunately he has not done anything. He is not ready to give access to heating and air condition controls . In absence of these controls and a window which can’t be opened it is making very difficult for me and my employees to work at times. Is there anything, I can do legally about it ? Regards Shampa

  15. Fabby says:

    Good afternoon, Please between what range of body temperature is a normal person safe. Recently checked a colleague of mine and it was 23 degrees. that can t be normal can it?

  16. Cher says:

    I work upstairs in a factory a average room there’s 5tadiator on 8 hours a day and an electric fire under my table I’m so hot it’s making me feel sick I’ve spoke too boss but nothing is done ???? I can’t cope with this is there anything I can do plies there’s only a small window open Not

  17. Phil says:

    I work for an Irish security guard company and work 12 hour night shifts in a building where the heating is turned off at 16:00 hours. I start at 20:00 hours and it’s freezing all through my shift. There is a little fan heater. Is it legal?

  18. Anon says:

    To 15 December 2019 @ 1.36PM. In my personal opinion having read your comment, your former employer may not have exercised their ‘Duty of Care’ to employees, relevant Health & Safety at Work Act etc and could possibly be liable for the injury. I would speak with GP to get treatment, advice and opinion. You may then want to consider talking with Citizens Advice or with a Solicitor who deals with personal injury claims. All the best.

  19. Jasmine V says:

    Almost 2 years ago I worked at a McDonald’s and there was a time where I worked a double shift they told me to go outside to take orders. It was super hot it was in the 90’s. I spend over twelve hours outside under the sun in the heat I got a lot darker and a bit of a sun burn. But now my skin is marked, obviously it’s darker than the rest of my skin but it has red spots over it and damaged because of my time in the sun even after all this time and my skin starting to bother me now that it’s cold out for the first time in a long time. Was it ok or allowed for them to make me work that long under the heat? I had just turned 18 at the time about 3 months before.

  20. Raj says:

    I’m a bus driver, how cold does it have to be in the cab for it to be considered unsafe, it’s December and the temperature outside is around freezing on most days, I wear thermals under my uniform, the heating on bus is inadequate, the buses are 15 years old.

  21. Carl says:

    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?

  22. Sunny says:

    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 ?

  23. Jens says:

    Hi I am bus driver and after 1 hour driving temperature in the bus is around 5 Celsius degree this is legal? Drivers reported low temperature but company ignored this.

  24. Morrigan says:

    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

  25. Dissapointed Custome says:

    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

  26. Sam says:

    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.

  27. Sam says:

    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.

  28. Shireen says:

    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

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