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17th January 2013

Temperatures at Work- Your Frequently Asked Questions

With the onset of wintry weather the advice line always receives numerous questions on temperatures in the workplace. This guide is intended to provide answers to the most common queries on this subject.

What is the minimum temperature allowed in the workplace?

It should be noted that the law does not state a minimum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least:

  • 16°C, or
  • 13°C if much of the work is physical.

These temperatures refer to readings taken using an ordinary dry bulb thermometer, close to workstations, at working height and away from windows.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that:

‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, such as a bakery, a cold store, an office or a warehouse.

The Approved code of Practice goes on to explain:

‘The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold processes, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable. ‘Workroom’ means a room where people normally work for more than short periods.

‘The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.’

What are the regulatory requirements for workplace temperature?

The regulatory requirements for workplace temperatures are set by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Under the regulations it states that the temperature of indoor workplaces should be reasonable. The Approved Code of Practice defines a reasonable temperature indoors as being normally at least 16°C unless the work involves severe physical work in which case the temperature should be at least 13°C.

These regulations only apply to employees – they do not apply to members of the public for example with regard temperature complaints from customers in a shopping centre or cinema.

What if I can’t maintain these temperatures in my building?

The above does not apply to rooms or parts of rooms where it would be impractical to maintain those temperatures, for example in rooms which have to be open to the outside, or where food or other products have to be kept cold. In such cases the temperature should be as close to those mentioned above as is practical – and this should be the subject of a specific risk assessment.

Where, despite the provision of local heating or cooling, workers are exposed to temperatures which do not give reasonable comfort, suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided.

Where practical there should also be systems of work (for example, task rotation) to ensure that the length of time for which individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.

What is a reasonable working temperature?

A reasonable temperature for a workplace depends on work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace.

In order to find out if you have a reasonable workplace temperature you need to:

  • Carry out a risk assessment.
  • Act on the findings of the risk assessment by implementing appropriate controls. If the effect is seasonal they may only need to be implemented temporarily. Click here for advice on controls.

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