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Working temperature

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regulates the law on health and safety at work. If you require further information regarding health and safety please visit the HSE website.

The temperature in an indoor workplace is covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which place a legal obligation on employers to provide a 'reasonable' temperature in the workplace.

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.

Key points

  • The law doesn't state what the minimum or maximum temperature should be.
  • Employers should provide a 'reasonable' temperature in the workplace.
  • Employers should have a risk assessment for the health and safety of their employees to assess and control risks in the workplace. The workplace temperature is a potential hazard that employers should address.
  • Employers will need to include in any assessment the risks of outdoor working.

Minimum and maximum workplace temperature

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states the employer should maintain a reasonable workplace temperature, but it doesn't specify a maximum temperature. Although the law doesn't state a minimum temperature, the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if a lot of the work is physical. Although, these temperatures are not a legal requirement; the employer has a duty to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances. The reasonable level will depend on the nature of the workplace such as a bakery, an office, or a warehouse.

Thermal comfort

Thermal comfort describes when someone is feeling too hot or too cold, environmental factors can influence someone's thermal comfort. These factors can include:

  • Humidity and sources of heat in the workplace.
  • Personal factors such as clothing.
  • Physical demands of the work.

Thermal comfort is hard to define as it takes into account a range of factors; air temperature alone is not an accurate indicator of thermal comfort. It should be used with other environmental and personal factors. In most workplaces some employees will feel the too hot while others feel too cold; satisfying the majority of people may be the most realistic way to achieve thermal comfort.

Find out more about managing thermal comfort from the Health and Safety Executive

Working outdoors

Working outdoors can have an impact on an employee's health and the risks need to be considered and properly managed. When employers are working outdoors the weather can influence their effectiveness. In these circumstances ways of managing the risks may include:

  • Ensure the personal protective equipment issued is appropriate.
  • Ensure workers are aware and recognise symptoms of heat / cold stress.
  • Consider the introduction of more frequent, short rest breaks, encouraging employees to have cold drinks during hot weather and hot drinks during cold weather.

Dress code during warm weather

Employers may choose to adopt a more casual approach to dress during the warm summer days, but this may depend on the type of business. Some employers may require staff to wear business dress all year because of the nature of the work, for example sales representatives who meet with clients will need to maintain a certain standard. More informal clothing can carry its own potential health and safety risks. For instance, some employers may have a "no flip flop" policy as a health and safety precaution, but any restrictions should be clearly set out in the organisation's policy.