We’ve been loving the recent warm weather and with it set to continue, we wanted to have a look at the rules and regulations about high temperatures in the workplace. Yes they apply in Scotland too! It’s no fun being stuck in the office on a sunny day but we’ll set out the basics below so you know your rights and it’s as comfortable as possible!
Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
The Health and Safety Executive regulates the law on health and safety at work. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 place a legal obligation on an employer to provide a ‘reasonable’ working temperature in the workplace. An assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees in high working temperatures is required to be carried out by employers “where necessary and where reasonably practicable”.
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
The relevant law is found in the above Regulations. It states that an employer must maintain a “reasonable temperature where you work”.
However, there is no legal minimum or maximum temperature set down (only a recommended minimum – see below). This is because workplaces vary so much in their temperatures and environments such as factories or bakeries will naturally be higher in temperature than offices.
The Regulations provide a recommended minimum temperature of 16C (or 13C if the work involves considerable physical activity) but doesn’t provide a recommended maximum temperature. A meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale. However, in addition to this recommendation, an employer is expected to prevent the workplace being uncomfortably hot. There should be enough thermometers around the workplace so that both the employer and employees can check the temperature throughout the day.
In addition to this guideline – if the thermometers read a reasonable temperature but people are complaining of the heat – common sense would state it is too hot and something must be done. Furthermore, air temperature is only a rough guide because humidity, wind speed, radiant heat sources, clothing, etc. all play a part too so any complaints of being too hot must be taken seriously.
In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of the employees, and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.
Temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations.
Thermal comfort describes when someone is too hot or too cold and is influenced by many factors. For example – humidity; clothing and physical demands of the job. It takes into account personal and environmental factors and varies from person to person.
Working outdoors provides its own difficulties and the advice to employers is to provide the correct protective equipment, ensure workers are aware of heat stress and consider short rest and water breaks to avoid overheating.
Dress code may be relaxed during hot weather so long as it still complies with health and safety requirements. We would recommend a dress code policy is included in any Staff Handbook.
Two MP’s are currently working towards introducing a maximum workplace temperature which would be 30C in an office and 27C if the work is exceedingly strenuous.
They are further arguing employers should be legally forced to provide water, breaks and air conditioning to combat soaring temperatures at work.
Advice to employers is to be mindful of the warmer weather and ensure you are taking reasonable action and monitoring to keep the workplace as comfortable as possible.
Advice to employees or workers is to ensure you are drinking enough water and get fresh air where necessary. Wear sensible clothing (still adhering to any uniform regulations and any dress code policy) and update your employer if you feel the temperature is not suitable.
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