Turning up the Heat

With the weather being what it is, you may be asked to turn up the heating at work. Obviously there is a cost implication but there are other issues that employers should consider.

Workplace temperature is covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992. Whilst the approved code of practice suggests that workrooms should never drop below 16° Celsius (or 13° Celsius where rigorous physical effort is involved), the Regulations escape quoting a particular figure by using the term ‘reasonable’ when discussing workplace temperatures.

Therefore it is down to the employer to decide what reasonable comfort is, depending on the particular circumstances. This ultimately falls under an employer’s implied duty of care to his or her employees.

Heating buildings is expensive and there is an environmental impact to consider so employers should consult with their staff to determine what temperature is acceptable.  Not only is 16° likely to be too cold to be considered comfortable for the average office environment, an employer should also think about the productivity of staff who are shivering at their desks.

Whilst everyone will want to work in an environment that has a comfortable temperature, comfortable might mean different things to different people. Encouraging staff to wear an extra layer to work will not only help to keep fuel bills down but will mean that staff can self-regulate how warm they are instead of making global changes to the heating that affect everyone.

Employers should also remember that temperature is only part of the issue. Stuffy and poorly ventilated workspaces can be uncomfortable places to work in; and can become a catalyst for colds and other airborne infections. An entire workforce taken down by flu, even just for a few days, may have a greater financial impact than organising a well managed working environment in the first place.

Ultimately, employers have a duty under Health and Safety guidelines to provide a safe working environment. This is bound to have some influence on the workplace temperature, but this will differ for people working in a cold-store and those working in a bakery; so ‘reasonable’ remains the key word.

For help and support with managing your workplace and your duty of care to employees call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail info@hrchampions.co.uk

02 March 2018, 12:41