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Controlling thermal comfort in the workplace

What are the minimum and maximum temperatures for working environments?

There are temperature regulations in place to guide businesses on thermal comfort levels for their employees. Whilst there are no exact numbers stated for the minimum and maximum temperatures in a working environment, Regulation 7 of The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 states that: ‘During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.’

The word reasonable is used because of how varied different working environments can be. For example, a reasonable temperature in a bakery will not be considered the same in a cold store warehouse or an office.

Whilst reasonable may sound vague, a reasonable temperature for a workplace will depend on work activity and the environmental conditions of the workplace. A thermal comfort risk assessment should be carried out if there is any indication the temperature of the working environment is anything but reasonable.

Employers have a duty of care towards employees and must attempt to control thermal comfort in the workplace.

Six measures you can take to control thermal comfort

Control the working environment

One of the simplest steps to take is to control the environment. This could be in the form of heating or cooling the air with heaters or air conditioning units. Humidifiers or dehumidifiers could also be used as required.

Separate the source of heat or cold from the employee

If it’s not possible to change the temperature of the working environment then steps can be taken to segregate the source of the heat or the cold from employees. For example, many factories require cold storage areas due to the nature of their work. Insulating this area from employees and having separate working areas within the rest of the factory for employees to comfortably work can be easily achieved with industrial partitioning. These two recent case studies highlight how Egger UK Ltd and Dempson Ltd converted part of their existing warehouse space into additional working environments, meaning that they would only need to heat the newly created area, giving them a much more cost effective solution.

Control the task at hand

Restricting the amount of time employees are exposed to unfavourable conditions can create a more comfortable working environment. Allow for frequent breaks and introduce mechanical aids to relieve the physical pressure on employees.

Control clothing

Any work uniforms should take into consideration the temperature of the working environment and be modified if necessary. For example, in cold conditions, layers and gloves should be provided. If protective clothing is needed, that should also reflect the temperature of the working environment. The balance between being sufficiently protected and maintaining a reasonable temperature is key.

Allow employees personal adaptations

Providing warm-up or cool-down areas that employees can frequently use can help to control thermal comfort. Restrictions should be removed that prevent employees from making adjustments for their personal comfort. For example, allowing employees the freedom to adjust thermostats if the nature of the work allows for it.

Monitor the employee

Assess individual employees to understand whether other steps should be taken i.e. employees who have special requirements due to pregnancy, certain illnesses, disabilities or maybe taking medication. Appropriate supervision and training should also be carried out to help employees work as comfortably as possible.

Fore more information on controlling thermal comfort in the workplace, why not check out our guide on creating a temperature controlled environment?

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