‘What’s the maximum allowable workplace temperature?’ is a question that workers ask every summer, as some struggle to cope with the heat.
The answer often surprises people – there isn’t one!
Head of Exeter’s Environmental Health Services, Robert Norley, told the Devon Week: “Health and safety law requires the temperature of indoor workplaces to be reasonable but doesn’t set a maximum figure because some workplaces are always going to be hotter than others. For example, workers in a bakery are likely to be exposed to higher temperatures then people in an office.
“In any case, measuring indoor temperatures alone can be misleading without taking into account other factors such as air movement and humidity. The office thermometer might be reading 21ºC (70ºF) but if humidity is high, people are likely to feel uncomfortable unless some form of air-cooling or ventilation is provided.
“Employers should take into account people’s thermal comfort as part of their health and safety risk assessment. If workplace temperature is a significant hazard, or the existing precautions are insufficient, then action is needed to remove the hazard or control the risks.”
While the weather is particularly hot, here are some simple tips to improve ‘thermal comfort’ in the workplace.
First of all:
- insulate hot pipes or equipment to stop heat loss;
- make sure that windows can be opened;
- shade windows with blinds, or use reflective film to reduce the sun’s heat;
- move workstations to cooler parts of the building if possible;
- provide additional drinking facilities such as cold water dispensers;
- allow sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks or cool down;
- relax formal dress code (although this shouldn’t compromise the wearing of any necessary safety clothing);
- where possible, allow more flexible working hours to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
- purchase, or hire air-cooling or air-conditioning equipment;
- provide desk, pedestal or ceiling-mounted fans; but remember that both of these are not environmentally friendly solutions.
Simple steps like these can stop workers getting hot and bothered this summer and help improve the working environment.
For further information on workplace temperatures, contact Exeter City Council’s Environmental Health Services on 01392 265790.