What is the law regarding working temperatures?
The wrong temperature in a working environment can prove uncomfortable for workers. Workplaces that are too cold or too hot can affect our stress levels and productivity. MWR’s employment law specialist, Sadiq Vohra explains the law regarding working temperatures.
Although legally there is no minimum or maximum temperature, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that during working hours, temperature should be reasonable. While this will vary dependant on the nature of the workplace, the temperature should normally be at least 16 Celsius, unless the work involves severe physical effort, in which case it should be at least 13 Celsius.
The regulations also stipulate that a sufficient number of thermometers should be provided to enable people to determine the temperature and ensure it is reasonable. Staff should also feel no need to wear specialist clothing to keep warm and a heating system should be provided when a comfortable temperature cannot be achieved.
It is often the case that in extremely hot weather a workroom becomes too stuffy; the space should therefore become well ventilated, especially when the work space is enclosed. Additional ventilation systems may be required in workplaces with a lot of hot air. Employees should also be allowed adequate breaks in a well ventilated place.
In some working environments, staff are required to wear personal protective equipment and employers have been urged to assess whether all equipment is needed in hot weather. Some employees who need to wear this equipment to prevent injury should be given longer breaks or more frequent breaks in a comfortable environment.
While failing to comply with the code of practice is not a criminal offence, employers who do not recognise the guidelines could face court proceedings if an employee’s safety has been contravened.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) recently hit out at PM David Cameron who, in January 2012, announced a “war against excessive health and safety.” A Day of Action to defend health and safety has been organised by the TUC for April 28th 2012. This is also Workers Memorial Day, an event which MWR continues to support each year.