Step 1: Identify Hazards
Are employees complaining that they are feeling too hot or too cold?
The following limits have provisionally been adopted. They are intended as the trigger to indicate that a thermal comfort risk assessment may be necessary, and as such they are not prescriptive. The limits have been set up to take into account differences between premises, types of occupations and the ability to control the environments in those situations.
| Air conditioned offices
|| Are more than 10% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?
| Naturally ventilated offices
|| Are more than 15% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?
| Retail businesses, warehouses, factories and all other indoor environments that may not have air conditioning
|| Are more than 20% of employees complaining of being too hot or too cold?
If the answer is YES to the above, then you may need to conduct a thermal comfort risk assessment. When conducting a risk assessment:
- listen to your workers views and concerns. They are experts in their jobs, and may have noticed things that are not immediately obvious. Also speak to your employees representatives (e.g. unions and other staff associations) in the workplace,
- contact industry federations or associations etc, and consider speaking to managers in other companies that are involved in the same business as your own;
- contact HSE for advice.
Identify the problems
Is a detailed risk assessment required, or might the problem be solved simply? Simple solutions may include:
- closing windows in air conditioned offices;
- pulling down blinds to prevent solar radiant heat etc;
- providing employees with sufficient control to adapt the environment by adding or removing layers of clothing;
- look - visually inspect the workplace to identify hazards that may impact on employee thermal comfort;
- look for patterns in the absenteeism rates, types of illnesses and their frequency of occurrence, the nature of employee complaints etc.
- take particular note of where the employee may work, their job, how experienced they are, whether any illnesses are recurring etc.
Things to look out for include:
- Are there any heat sources in the workplace?
- Are workers exposed to external climatic conditions?
- Are workers wearing PPE?
- Are workers involved in intensive physical activity?
What are the consequences of thermal discomfort?
Are your employees reporting illnesses and other ailments that may be linked to the thermal environment?
- Read through any RIDDOR reports and any internal accident or injury reports.
- Are there any patterns to the nature of reportable accidents or injuries?
- Could any repeated accidents be attributed to the effects of thermally-induced physiological or psychological performance decrements (eg fatigue, loss of concentration etc).
Things to look out for include:
- Do accidents increase during periods of hotter or cooler weather?
- Do absentee rates increase during hotter or cooler weather?
- Are there more complaints during hotter or cooler weather?
- Do more than 20% of employees complain of any of the symptoms of thermal discomfort?
Next: Step 2: Decide who is at risk