Are Your Workers Too Hot to Work? - Guest Article from Ian Holloway
As the UK braces itself for a sweltering few days, it is worthwhile and timely to write about the age-old question ‘is there a maximum working temperature?’. Can it be too hot to work? Employers will refer to their Human Resource departments querying whether there is a temperature above which it is not acceptable to expect employees to work.
Professionals need to be armed with this information and, as always, I head straight to the legislation. As employment and health are devolved issues, this differs:
- In Great Britain it is The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
- In Northern Ireland it is The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993
In both pieces of legislation it is Regulation 7 that is important. This says:
‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’
Which opens up the debate ‘what does reasonable actually mean?’. So, the next step is to head to the relevant Approved Codes of Practice on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive (Northern Ireland) (HSENI) Websites. Whilst the Websites may differ, the guidance is the same:
‘The temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius’
In short, there is only a legal minimum working temperature. Yet employers need to remember that they have a legal duty to ensure the welfare of their employees and workers. Which means that they have to consider ‘thermal comfort’. This is described as ‘a person’s state of mind in terms of whether they feel too hot or too cold’.
So, the emphasis is on the employer’s legal responsibility to manage thermal comfort, as per the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and 2000 Northern Ireland equivalent. In light of these obligations, it is good for employers to be aware of guidance that is on the HSE Website (in Great Britain but applies equally in Northern Ireland):
- What is thermal comfort?
- What are the six factors of determining thermal comfort?
- Measuring thermal comfort
- Controlling thermal comfort
- The Thermal Comfort Checklist
In short, as the UK swelters, it’s all about awareness of thermal comfort and putting in place measures that will reduce heat stress so it’s not too hot to work. If employers fail to do this, they are not adhering to the above Management Regulations. These extend to workers rather than just employees – plus consider the self-employed.
Ian has written a number of guest articles for Ashley Kate which can be accessed in our news centre, along with our latest news.