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What is the legal minimum and maximum temperature at work?

Posted on July 19, 2013

19 July 2013: Some employees suffer hot-house conditions in their office in the summer and have frozen toes in the winter.

 

Surprisingly the law does not state a minimum or a maximum temperature. However the Health and Safety Executive states that the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C, or 13°C if much of the work is physical. Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be ‘reasonable’. What is ‘reasonable’ will depend on the place of work: What is reasonable in a restaurant kitchen will be different from an office. The Code of Practice says the temperature should be reasonable without the need for special clothing

 

The Heath and Safety Executive 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.’. The HSE now state that In order to find out if you have a reasonable workplace temperature you need to carry out a  Thermal Risk Assessment.

 

There is an implied term of every employment contract that the Employer provide a safe system of working. Therefore if the working conditions were damaging to the employee’s health, the employer would be in breach of that implied condition and in most extreme cases, the employee might be able to refuse to attend the work place whilst their health and safety remained at risk (though this would be unusual if it were simply the case of a chilly or a hot office).

 

Employees who find that their working environment is so uncomfortably hot as to affect their health or productivity would be wise to raise a formal grievance with their manager if informal approaches cannot sort it out.

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