It’s commonly thought that there isn’t a minimum working temperature.
However, this isn’t strictly true and employers are obliged to keep workplaces at a reasonable temperature throughout the year.
And it’s in everyone’s interests that they do so. Comfort makes people happier, healthier and more productive. Not only that, it’s crucial to office morale.
So, what are the regulations you need to know about and how can you improve your working conditions?
What is the Legal Minimum Working Temperature?
Although the law doesn’t state a single minimum working temperature, there are unambiguous guidelines that employers must enforce.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states:
‘The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing’
and goes on to say:
‘The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C unless much of the work involves severe physical effort, in which case the temperature should be at least 13°C.
‘These temperatures may not, however, ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement and relative humidity.’
If you work in an office and the temperature is routinely below 16°C, you certainly have cause to complain. And even if your workplace is always above the minimum, there are other factors which could make the conditions unreasonable.
What is My Employer Required to Do?
Providing adequate heating in winter is a legal requirement.
If the temperature drops below a reasonable level, employers are obliged to take any appropriate measures to bring it back up again.
During extreme cold spells, this includes hiring additional heaters to bring the temperature above the minimum.
However, if your system is consistently unable to provide adequate heating at low temperatures, you need to come up with a long term solution.
With all the options out there, it isn’t difficult to find a heating system runs efficiently and effectively. If your old system is inefficient, you might be able to access funding for part of the initial installation. Eventually, it will pay for itself through productivity gains and energy savings.
An integrated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is the best solution for most modern workplaces. HVAC systems are capable of maintaining a comfortable temperature and high quality air supply all year round.
If you have a large office, you can regulate temperature across different zones, ensuring that people in different areas are equally comfortable.
Managing Temperatures Correctly
Even if you have the best system in place, it’s still important that you set it correctly.
For us, as air conditioning installers, the issue of working temperature comes up as often in the summer as it does in the winter.
Business owners strive to keep temperatures down but often go overboard, resulting in workplaces that are too cold, especially as everyone is dressed for the summer. It’s costly, inefficient and self-defeating.
Similarly, in the winter, you shouldn’t overheat your building to try and keep people happy.
In fact, doing so can have the opposite effect.
Nobody likes walking in from the cold into a roasting hot office or leaving at the end of the day to an extreme drop in temperature.
Whether it’s in heating or cooling mode, keep your air conditioning in tune with the weather outside and make sure the temperature is reasonable.
For further information on this subject, visit the Health and Safety Executive’s Thermal Comfort Microsite.