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Thermal comfort: more than just a question of temperature

Traditionally, the thermometer has been the sole guide when deciding if a workplace is too warm or too cold to work in. But current guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) focuses on 'thermal comfort' - which considers whether workers are satisfied with the workplace temperature, rather than simply measuring the air temperature.

Because thermal comfort involves more than just temperature it can be difficult to quantify. Other factors, such as personal preference, clothing, the location of heat sources, ventilation and humidity all have an impact on an employee's thermal comfort. Workers who have a more active role may feel warmer than those whose work is sedentary. With so many factors contributing to employees' thermal comfort, it can be difficult to provide an environment that consistently satisfies all employees. In recognition of this, the Health and Safety Executive recommends that 80 percent of employees should be thermally comfortable in the workplace.

While thermal comfort may sometimes be difficult to achieve, employees can benefit from having a degree of control over their environment - such as the option to don or remove layers of clothing, to move closer to or away from heat sources, or to change activities. By allowing employees to control their own thermal comfort, employers can reduce the risks associated with thermal discomfort - such as employees taking shortcuts, removing personal protective equipment or losing concentration.

Visit Contracts and hours: how Acas can help in the Acas Training and Business Solutions area for more informationon relevant Acas training, including Acas' response to the Government's Resolving workplace disputes consultation training courses and bespoke training on Health, wellbeing and managing attendance.

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