The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations state that:
“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.”
What is reasonable depends on the nature of the workplace. The expectation in an office will be different than in a warehouse.
The Approved Code of Practice to the regulations states that:
“The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16oC unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13oC. These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity.”
Thermal comfort is affected by more than just room temperature. Whether a person feels too hot or too cold depends on a combination of environmental factors, including the temperature, sources of heat and relative humidity and personal factors such as the level of physical activity and the amount of clothing being worn.
The HSE have defined thermal comfort in the workplace, as:
“An acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13°C and 30°C, with acceptable temperatures for more strenuous work activities concentrated towards the bottom end of the range, and more sedentary activities towards the higher end.”
The further outside this range the working temperature is the more likely that harm will be caused. Heat stress and cold stress can both result in serious health problems.
Control measures for maintaining thermal comfort include:
- Appropriate timing – if the temperature fluctuates between comfortable and uncomfortable;
- Climate control by air warming, cooling or conditioning;
- Local heating, cooling or ventilation equipment;
- Suitable thermally protective clothing;
- Rest facilities with means for warming or cooling; and
- Work planning (e.g. task rotation) to limit the time that individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures.