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Case 363 - Unable to open office windows

Issue

Enquirer’s office has been told that they cannot have the keys to open the windows in their office on the 3rd floor as this would breach health and safety. The windows run almost floor to ceiling with the top section opening inwards. Standing next to the window, the open section is just below the enquirer’s chest height (they are 6ft tall). With summer coming the office is getting hotter and they are unable to have any fresh air in the building.

Panel opinion

In some circumstances it may be appropriate to prohibit people from opening windows if there is a real risk of someone falling out; but where this is a concern, the problem can also be addressed by fitting controls to limit the extent to which the windows can be opened. In this particular case it seems more likely that "health and safety" has been used as a cover when the real reason is to do with concerns over the effectiveness of the air conditioning.
"Health and safety" should not be used simply to avoid having a discussion about the real concerns and what solutions might be possible.

2015-05-13