We’ve had freezing cold temperatures for more than a few days, snow, ice and everything else it can throw at us. But when it comes working in the cold, what are the rules you must abide to?
It is not just about the cold weather outside you need to be aware of but also your legal responsibilities for managing and maintaining the inside temperatures of your workplace. It seems that not so many weeks ago we woke up to crisp blue skies with stunning scenes of heavy frost and freezing temperatures.
The legal position is somewhat vague on the issue however as a rule of thumb you should maintain a temperature of at least 16C in offices, but in certain circumstances, it can be as low as 13C (depending on the nature of the workplace).
There are regulations which cover this area namely The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations of 1992. These state that “during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable” – but what is reasonable? The Regulations say “The temperatures in a workroom should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Where such a temperature is impractical because of hot or cold process, all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a temperature which is as close as possible to comfortable.”
So what should you be doing to ensure that your staff are working in a reasonably comfortable work environment? First and foremost, ensure that the temperature in your workplace is at least 16c or above. If it does fall below 16C, you have a duty to take action. You may wish to consider allowing your employees to have regular breaks and a chance to have a hot drink to warm them up; provide additional heating should it get too cold. Employers who don’t act put themselves at risk of seriously harming the wellbeing of your employees and face potential legal action as a result, not to mention poor staff motivation.