MPs Recommend Statutory Maximum Workplace Temperature

MPs Recommend Statutory Maximum Workplace Temperature

  • Date: Monday 20th August 2018
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According to the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers, indoor temperatures that exceed 28°C for long periods are likely to result in reduced productivity. A parliamentary committee has called on the UK government to consult on introducing a maximum workplace temperature, especially for work that involves significant physical effort, in order to tackle the impact of heatwaves on employee productivity. 

Heatwaves cause premature deaths, from cardiac, kidney and respiratory disease. It is estimated that there will be 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050 in the UK if the government does not take action.

Overheating work environments can also lead to heat stress, particularly for workers engaged in heavy outdoor manual labour and for employees working in offices built in the 1960s and 1970s as these tend to have poor ventilation systems.

The Environmental Audit Committee has published a new report, Heatwaves: adapting to climate change, in which it makes a series of recommendations to help workers cope in overheating work environments.  

These include a review of the building regulations for a new standard to prevent overheating in new buildings, as well as formal guidance from Public Health England to employers to relax dress codes and allow flexible working during heatwave alerts to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Section 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations requires employers to maintain a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace. The minimum temperature is 16°C, or 13°C if work involves physical activity, however the regulations do not currently specify a maximum temperature. 

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) website states: “A meaningful figure cannot be given at the upper end of the scale due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present.”

In its Approved Code of Practice, the HSE recommends employers “take all reasonable steps to achieve a reasonably comfortable temperature” and advocates the use of fans and increased ventilation in extremely hot weather. 

Thermal comfort and the risk of overheating needs to be adequately addressed in building regulations and the wider regulatory framework. The health of occupants should be a key priority, especially as severe heat events have become increasingly common since 1950 and are set to become more frequent.

Source: IOSH Magazine

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