Cold Temperatures - Snow JokeWith the spate of cold temperatures, and snow, set to heat the UK over the next few weeks we thought you might like to know what it is you need to do…

Temperatures in the workplace are covered by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. The regulations say employers must provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace. What this reasonable temperature is depends weather your inside or out (pun intended).

Cold Temperatures Inside

The Approved Code of Practice suggests a minimum temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius – or 13 degrees Celsius if much of the work indoors involves severe physical effort. These temperatures are not absolute legal requirements, they are guidelines; the employer’s essential duty is to determine what reasonable comfort will be in the particular circumstances.

When you’re inside there are some simple controls that should always be considered first:

  • providing adequate workplace heating, eg portable heaters
  • reducing draughts (draft excluders, closing doors etc)
  • providing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get hot drinks or to warm up in heated areas

If these are proving unsuccessful you can try:

  • reducing cold exposure by designing processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products where possible
  • providing insulating floor coverings or special footwear when workers have to stand for long periods on cold floors
  • providing appropriate protective clothing for cold environments
  • introducing formal systems of work to limit exposure, eg flexible working patterns, job rotation

Cold Temperatures Outside

When working outside there aren’t the same guidelines. It’s down to employer’s to work out what’s too cold to work, but they should bear in mind the effect on an individual’s effectiveness in the cold.

Outdoors it’s not always that easy to manage the temperature using just engineering controls. In these circumstances some of the most effective management is by introducing simple administrative controls for example:

  • Provision of mobile facilities for warming up, and encourage the drinking of warm fluids such as soup or hot chocolate
  • Introduce more frequent rest breaks
  • Educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of cold stress.

For more information about low (or high) temperatures in work, visit the HSE’s website, or contact us.