Temperature in the workplace – Outdoor

When working outdoors the effects of the weather in the UK environment can potentially have a serious impact on an employee’s health if the risks have not been considered or properly managed. This impact may be immediate or it may occur over a long time period.

When working outdoors the weather can have influence an individual’s effectiveness and this is not readily managed using just engineering controls. In these circumstances some of the most effective ways of managing these environments are to introduce some simple administrative controls for example:

Cold environments

  • ensure the personal protective equipment issued is appropriate
  • provide mobile facilities for warming up, and encourage the drinking of warm fluids such as soup or hot drinks
  • introduce more frequent rest breaks
  • consider delaying the work – can it be undertaken at warmer times of the year without compromising on safety?
  • educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of cold stress

Hot environments

  • reschedule work to cooler times of the day
  • provide more frequent rest breaks and introduce shading to rest areas
  • provide free access to cool drinking water
  • introduce shading in areas where individuals are working
  • encourage the removal of personal protective equipment when resting to help encourage heat loss
  • educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of heat stress

Working in the sun

Too much sunlight is harmful to your skin. It can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing and in the long term can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the UK with over 50,000 new cases every year.
A tan is a sign that the skin has been damaged. The damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight.

Who is at risk?

If work keeps you outdoors for a long time your skin could be exposed to more sun than is healthy for you. You should take particular care if you have:

  • fair or freckled skin that doesn’t tan, or goes red or burns before it tans
  • red or fair hair and light coloured eyes
  • a large number of moles

Temperature in the workplace – Indoor

With the mini heatwave we have had we are looking at what the Law requires.

Temperature (indoor) in the workplace is covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which states employers must provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace. So what does this mean?

Minimum workplace temperature

The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.

Higher workplace temperatures

A meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. Factors other than air temperature, ie radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.

Risk assessment

In addition to the Workplace Regulations, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.

The temperature of the workplace is one of the potential hazards that employers should address to meet their legal obligations. Employers should consult with employees or their representatives to establish sensible means to cope with high temperatures.