Employers have a legal obligation to provide a ‘reasonable’ working temperature which is covered by the Workplace(Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Safe working temperatures are important in any work environment.
Excess heat can cause drowsiness which could lead to mistakes or unfinished work. High temperatures can also cause heat stress and other health problems. Heat stress occurs when the body’s means of controlling its internal temperature starts to fail. As well as air temperature, factors such as work rate, humidity and clothing worn while working may lead to heat stress.
Surprisingly there is no legal maximum safe working temperature - the only requirement is that workplace temperatures in buildings should be ‘reasonable’. (Workplace Regulations 1992). A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, bakeries, 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.
According to the TUC, during hot summers employees are more prone to trip or slip and staff working with computers often suffer from stress, tension and tiredness. For manual workers, working in hot conditions can cause fainting, dizziness and cramps and for some workers the heat can affect lungs and hearts, eg cause asthma, throat infections or rhinitis.
As there is no legal ruling, the TUC recommends maximum safe working temperatures of 27ºC for manual workers, and 30ºC for sedentary workers.
Controlling High Temperatures
In an office, employers may be able to keep the maximum temperature below 30ºC with suitable ventilation and shades. Employers can also make staff more comfortable by allowing a sensible dress code and by ensuring there are regular breaks for cooling drinks.
Suitable ventilation can take the form of air conditioning, open windows and fans which can help to keep the air fresh. Stuffy air interferes with workers’ concentration, and can raise the temperature to uncomfortable levels. If you have a cooling system or unit, then keep the windows closed so that the air conditioning units work effectively.
If employers use air conditioning, they need to ensure it is regularly serviced and maintained by a qualified engineer. Poor functioning air conditioning can actually increase the temperature rather than lower it. London Cool recommends keeping your air conditioning maintained throughout the winter to ensure it will work when you really need it. In addition, keeping to a planned maintenance schedule not only ensures your air conditioning is working at optimum levels, it will comply with a manufacturer’s extended parts warranty.
Midland Cool has a selection of portable air conditioners and evaporative coolers for hire. These cooling units are invaluable in controlling the temperature in a variety of environments and are used in many sectors such as manufacturing, industry, healthcare, events, theatres, exhibition spaces, museums, retail, hotels, server rooms or data cetres, schools and colleges.