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Acceptable Temperature in the Workplace

Thursday, 14 February 2013

In its 2010 safety representatives’ survey, the Trade Union Congress found that one in three (34 per cent) safety representatives cited acceptable temperature in the workplace as one of their top concerns. In its 2009 survey, CareerBuilder found that 19 per cent of workers described their workplace as too cold, while 27 per cent described it as too hot. Cold temperatures in the workplace caused 11 per cent of respondents to experience a lack of concentration.

The notion that cooler temperatures may, in fact, increase productivity has been found to be false. Alan Hedge at Cornell University conducted two studies on climate's effect on productivity, and found that when it was cool to colder in the office, people did less work and made more mistakes.

The UK’s Recent Cold Snaps

The UK’s recent cold snaps and the pressure to save money in today’s economy by turning down office temperatures means that more and more workers are now exposed to cold temperatures in the workplace. That can lead to a wide range of conditions, from fatigue and visual strain to muscular pain and heart conditions for some workers who have medical conditions.

Workplace Temperature and the Law

Although the law does not say anything about the minimum workplace temperature, the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) says that the temperature in the workplace should be at least 16 degrees Celsius or 13 degrees if much of the work involved physical activity. The application of the regulation varies depending on the nature of the workplace. The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 also states that the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be reasonable and it is the duty of an employer to ensure that steps have been taken to combat any ‘unreasonable’ temperatures so far as it is ‘reasonably practical’.

ACOP explains the concept of ‘reasonable’ by stating that ‘the temperature should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing’ and ‘all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable’.

Employee’s Temperature Satisfaction

To determine the employees’ temperature satisfaction in a workplace, the employer should carry out a thermal comfort risk assessments, and do so on a regular basis. If an employer finds unsatisfactory working conditions, resolution may include: provision of additional heating, relaxation of dress code requirements or even relaxation of set hours of work. It is also the employer’s duty to provide a suitable number of thermometers so that the temperature is checked throughout the workplace.

While temperature is a big contributing factor for a worker’s comfort, it is hardly ever the only one: environmental factors, such as air movement, relative humidity and radiant temperature should also be taken into account.

If you would like more information regarding acceptable temperature in the workplace or other Employment matters, Rollingsons has experienced lawyers who can advise you. Please contact Aneil Balgobin via e-mail ABalgobin@rollingsons.co.uk or by telephone on 0207 611 4848.

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