3. Managing workplace temperatures
This page explains your responsibilities as an employer and suggests ways you can manage the temperature in your workplace to protect workers.
How you manage the effects of temperature depends on:
- whether the workplace is indoors or outdoors
- the normal operating temperature of that environment
You should provide:
- a reasonable working temperature in workrooms – usually at least 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work
- local heating or cooling (using fans, opening windows, using radiators) where a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained throughout each workroom, such as in hot and cold manufacturing processes
- rest facilities where necessary, eg for hot work or warm clothing in cold stores
- heating systems which do not give off dangerous or offensive levels of fume into the workplace
We have separate advice for those working outdoors.
When people are too hot
You can help ensure people are comfortable in warm conditions:
- Provide fans, such as desk, pedestal or ceiling-mounted ones
- Provide air-cooling or air-conditioning and adequate ventilation
- Ensure windows can be opened to keep air circulating
- Shade employees from direct sunlight with blinds or by using reflective film on windows
- Position workstations away from direct sunlight or sources of heat
- Place insulating materials around hot plant and pipes
- Provide cold water dispensers (water is better than caffeine or carbonated drinks)
You can also change work arrangements to avoid people getting too hot:
- Introduce flexible working patterns, such as job rotation, moving workers to cooler parts of the building where possible
- Allow enough breaks to allow workers to get cold drinks or cool down
- Relax formal dress codes – but make sure personal protective equipment is used if required
We have advice on assessing the risks of heat stress and protecting workers from it.
When people are too cold
You can take these practical steps to keep people as comfortable as possible when working in the cold:
- Provide adequate workplace heating, such as portable heaters, to ensure work areas are warm enough when they are occupied
- Design processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products
- Reduce draughts while still keeping adequate ventilation
- Provide insulating floor coverings or special footwear when workers have to stand for long periods on cold floors
- Provide appropriate protective clothing for cold environments
You can also change work systems:
- Limit exposure by introducing systems such as flexible working patterns or job rotation
- Provide enough breaks to allow workers to get hot drinks or warm up in heated areas
PPE and workplace temperature
Personal protective equipment (PPE) reduces the body's ability to evaporate sweat. If the PPE is awkward to wear, or heavy, it may contribute to an increase in body heat.
Wearing PPE in warm/hot temperatures with high work rates may increase the risk of heat stress.
How to keep workers safe wearing PPE
Encourage workers to remove PPE immediately after it is needed. This will prevent any heat retained in their clothing from continuing to heat them. Where necessary, they should allow it to dry out, or replace it, before using PPE again.
PPE may prevent workers removing clothing in case it exposes them to the hazard it is protecting them from.
Where PPE is required it can cause heat stress due to its weight and the fact that it prevents sweat evaporating from the skin. In these situations, employers should:
- allow slower work rates
- rotate staff out of this environment on a more frequent basis
- allow longer recovery times
- provide facilities for PPE to be dried so it can be worn again
- consider scheduling work to cooler times of the day
- review your risk assessment to see if automated or alternative systems of work can be introduced
- re-evaluate your equipment as newer PPE may be lighter and provide improved levels of protection and operator comfort
Make sure people continue to wear PPE correctly despite workplace temperatures. For example, they should not endanger themselves by undoing fasteners to increase air movement into clothing.
People can sometimes wear too much PPE so you should always look at the reasons for using it. For example:
- Can your workers wear less PPE and still have the protection they require or may other controls reduce or eliminate the need for it?
- Can the task be automated or can you adopt additional or more effective safeguards?
Our PPE at work pages provide further advice, including selecting the most appropriate equipment for your workplace.
Very high or low workplace temperatures
If your workers are complaining or reporting illnesses that may be caused by temperatures in your workplace, review the situation and, if necessary, put in place controls to manage the risks. You may need to:
- monitor how workplace temperatures are affecting workers as part of your risk management
- put health surveillance or medical screening in place for workers who are pregnant, have illnesses or disabilities, or are taking certain medication
- review working habits and current practices and (where necessary) change these to control the risks