Poor temperature control in the workplace can lead to heat and cold stress, dehydration and serious personal injuries. Not only can poor temperature control lead to industrial accidents ,diseases, but it can also make employees more susceptible to accident at work compensation claims, as it can cause difficulty concentrating, exhaustion, fainting and loss of consciousness.
As a result, employers should consider temperature when developing risk assessments. Employers must protect the health and safety of their workforce and can face personal injury claims if they do not.
Controlling temperature can be relatively simple in some working environments, such as within offices with central heating and air conditioning. However, in food preparation areas, in some industries and in outdoors work, it can be considerably more difficult.
What temperature should a workplace be?
The highest acceptable temperature is around 30 degrees C, although this might be far too high for strenuous physical work and is more suitable for sedentary work.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 calls for indoor working environments to be at a “reasonable” temperature. “Reasonable” is defined as being at least 16 degrees C, or 13 degrees C when workplaces involve strenuous physical tasks.
However, it is not always possible to reach these temperatures – some working environments can be constantly above 30 degrees C or below 13 degrees C.
Controlling temperature and preventing personal injury claims
When these temperatures cannot be reached, such as if work processes require high or low temperatures, steps should be taken to ensure the comfort of employees. Some of the ways employers can avoid workplace accident compensation claims and control temperature include:
Use fans, air conditioning and physical barriers to control temperature within a workplace
Prevent dehydration by providing cool drinks and encouraging staff to drink before, during and after work
Regulate exposure to cold or hot environments, such as by only allowing access to areas when the temperature reaches an acceptable level, or by only allowing people to work in hot or cold areas for a predetermined length of time
Supporting workers, such as through training on heat stress, emergency procedures and safe working practices
Identify at-risk employees, such as the elderly or pregnant women. Identify the workers who are most suited to hot or cold temperatures
Outdoor working can be scheduled to be completed in the cooler hours of the day during hot weather, whereas warming foods such as soup or coffee can help employees working during cold environments.
Personal protective equipment can also protect members of staff from dangerous temperatures. Employers should also be aware of the dangers of the sun – many industrial disease compensation claims involve sun-related illnesses, such as melanoma.
Maintaining comfortable working environments will not just prevent workplace accident claims – it will also keep a workforce healthy and happy and improve staff retention. Health and safety isn’t just about avoiding paying out personal injury compensation – it should also improve a company’s bottom-line in the long-term.
Karl Johnson works alongside unions and health and safety representatives to drive down the number of back injuries compensation claims and accidents at work. He lives in Suffolk with three dogs and two cats, and enjoys playing Rugby with his friends, strumming out songs on his acoustic guitar, and listening to classic rock or Radio 4.