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Frequently asked questions

What is the minimum/maximum temperature in the workplace?

The law does not state a minimum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

  • 16°C, or
  • 13°C if much of the work is physical.

For full details read on...

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

The associated ACOP ( Workplace health, safety and welfare. Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Approved Code of Practice ) goes on to explain:

‘The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable. 'Workroom' means a room where people normally work for more than short periods.

The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity.’

Where the temperature in a workroom would otherwise be uncomfortably high, for example because of hot processes or the design of the building, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature, for example by:

  • insulating hot plants or pipes;
  • providing air-cooling plant;
  • shading windows;
  • siting workstations away from places subject to radiant heat.

Where a reasonably comfortable temperature cannot be achieved throughout a workroom, local cooling should be provided. In extremely hot weather fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.

Where, despite the provision of local cooling, workers are exposed to temperatures which do not give reasonable comfort, suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided. Typical examples of suitable protective clothing would be ice vests, or air/water fed suits. The effectiveness of these PPE systems may be limited if used for extended periods of time with inadequate rest breaks. Where practical there should be systems of work (for example, task rotation) to ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.

HSE previously defined thermal comfort in the workplace, as: 'An acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F), with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and more sedentary activities towards the higher end.'

What are the regulatory requirements for workplace temperature?

The regulatory requirements for workplace temperatures are set by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which replaced the requirements under the Factories Act 1961 and the Offices, Shops and Railways Premises Act 1963.

Under the regulations it states that the temperature of indoor workplaces should be reasonable. The Approved Code of Practice defines a reasonable temperature indoors as being normally at least 16°C unless the work involves severe physical work in which case the temperature should be at least 13°C.

Where there are requirement for workrooms to operate at lower temperatures for example for food hygiene purposes you should refer to the chilled food advice.

These regulations only apply to employees they do no apply to members of the public for example with regard temperature complaints from customers in a shopping centre or cinema.

What is a reasonable working temperature?

A reasonable temperature for a workplace depends on work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace.

In order to find out if you have a reasonable workplace temperature you need to:

What instructions should I give staff wearing required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

Where personal protective equipment (PPE) is required its weight and ability to prevent sweat evaporating can cause thermal stress. In these situations employers should:

In order to find out if you have a reasonable workplace temperature you need to:

  • Permit work to occur at a slower rate.
  • Rotate staff out of this environment on a more frequent basis
  • Allow longer recovery times before permitting re-entry
  • Consider scheduling work to cooler times of the days
  • Periodically revisit your risk assessment to consider if the process could be automated or alternative systems of work/controls can be introduced
  • Re-evaluate your PPE as newer PPE may be lighter and provide improved levels of protection and operator comfort.

How hot does it have to be before I can complain?

Refer to the table in Step 1 of the Controlling the risks in the workplace. If the percentage of workers complaining about thermal discomfort exceeds the recommended figure, your employer should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment.

How can I find out how much insulation clothing provides if I cannot measure the insulation?

ISO 9920 contains tables that you can use to estimate clothing insulation.

How can I find out how much metabolic heat someone is creating without measuring it?

Measuring metabolic rate is very difficult, requires expensive equipment, a high level of competency and may not be very accurate in an industrial setting.

BS EN 28996 and BS EN ISO 8996 provide a detailed description of how to estimate and/or measure metabolic rate.

If our employees need to wear PPE, how can we improve their thermal comfort?

PPE is intended to protect employees from a primary hazard. People can sometimes wear too much PPE though. Look again at the reasons for the PPE. Can your employees wear less PPE and still have the protection they require? Alternatively, has PPE been employed as a last resort? May other controls reduce or eliminate the need for PPE?

2013-11-05