The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations of 1992, are where you’ll need to look for legal guidance if your place of work starts to feel a little chilly. These state: ‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’ They add: ‘The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing.’




In combination with this, the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are more specific: They state temperature in workrooms should be a guideline minimum of 16˚C (or 13˚C ‘if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort’).

As mentioned, the combination of HSE guidelines and 1992 Workplace regulations indicate employers have an obligation to maintain a safe and comfortable working temperature at all times (with 16˚C/13˚C being the recognised levels). So if a workplace was to drop below this, and employees were to complain to local authorities or even suffer as a result, employers are therefore at risk of legal action.



While we’ve been experiencing a fairly mild (but extremely wet) winter across most of the UK, the threat of a sudden cold snap remains ever- present. This can be big news for businesses that may not be aware of the regulations surrounding temperature in the workplace.

For example, in 2010 an employer in Carlisle was fined £2,000 for failing to maintain an adequate workplace temperature. After a number of complaints, an official recorded temperatures of below 10˚C at the property in question. An improvement notice was issued but subsequent visits also recorded sub-standard temperatures and a fine was enforced.

If the working temperature does drop below the recommended level, in order to avoid legal action as above, employers are obliged to act. The following are recommended as ways in which you might improve thermal comfort in a cold workplace:

• Bring in extra heating devices

• Adapt working patterns: Another good option is to allow employees to be more flexible with their working patterns. This can allow them to avoid working at times at which they might experience extreme temperatures. Perhaps more practical (especially in winter) would be allowing employees to work from home.

• Provide appropriate clothing for cold environments: If employees work in unavoidably-cold environments, provide adequate personal protective equipment.

As with many things, prevention may be the best cure when it comes to maintaining a comfortable temperature in the workplace. The following should all contribute to a warmer working environment and hopefully warmer staff:

• Be prepared: When it comes to prevention, HSE recommend having a strong practises place: ‘[Reduce] cold exposure by designing processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products where possible’.

• Check the heating works: Before you turn on the heating for the first time, check it still works. Companies also can run heating ‘services’ on your equipment to ensure it is up to scratch.

• Reduce draughts: Draughts can cause isolated cool spots. If employees notice a draught, try to find the source and deal with the problem efficiently.

• Insulate: HSE recommends insulating floor coverings, or that you provide protective footwear if employees have to spend a long time standing on cold floors. It is also worth looking at the building itself, to see if there is scope for further insulation.

A cold office can be a source of much grumbling, and ultimately can result in costly and unnecessary legal actions. However, with clear policies and a flexible approach, it needn’t be an issues if temperatures drop this winter, or any henceforth. TOMORROW’S FM | 49

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