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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:

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:

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.'

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

Refer to the table in Step 1 of the Five steps to risk assessment. 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?

2011-08-19