Health & Safety - Cold weather
I have been approached by members
in a number of workplaces complaining both about
the cold temperatures and about the failure
of management to improve these.
The Council's Frequently Asked
Questions section on the Orb states that
"Q1. My office is too
hot/cold. What can be done to make it more comfortable?
Normally the temperature in an
office should not be less than 16°C. No maximum
temperature is specified in the legislation
which only requires it to be 'reasonably comfortable'.
By law offices should be provided
with thermometers so that you can check the
temperature. During times when the main heating
or cooling systems break down or when extremes
of temperature are experienced (e.g. mid winter
or high summer) then temporary heating or cooling
can be provided.
Individual preferences on temperature
vary and it is often difficult to achieve a
temperature that everyone will find comfortable.
Most people are happy with a temperature within
the range of 18°C and 24°C.
Where the main heating/cooling
system is defective then this should be reported
through your normal management structure or,
in buildings serviced by Facilities Management,
to the Facilities Helpdesk.
Q2. There is an uncomfortable
draught in our office. I think it might be giving
me a frozen shoulder.
The Health and Safety (Workplace)
Regulations 1992 require workplaces to be kept
free from uncomfortable draughts. Your manager
will need to identify the source of the draught
and either take action to eliminate the draught
or reorganise the arrangement of the workstations
to minimise exposure to the draught.
It may be necessary to obtain
technical assistance from service areas in the
Council who have responsibility for the maintenance
of Council properties (e.g. Property Management;
It is clear that the intention
is to maintain a temperature of between 18 -
24 degrees in the working environment. Offices
should have access to thermometers so that accurate
readings can be taken in the areas where workers
The HSE recommend that employers
should consider carrying out a Thermal Comfort
Risk Assessment where 10% of workers in an air
conditioned office or 15% of workers in a naturally
ventilated office complain of being too hot
or too cold. I would recommend that in any instances
where the temperature is out with the 18 - 24
range are reported on a Council Accident/Incident
form as it has the potential to cause harm.
It could be that even temperatures
within this banding are not acceptable. There
are air comfort factors other than temperature
for example air quality, wind chill and humidity
that can make workers feel uncomfortable in
a workplace where on the face of it measurement
by temperature alone makes the workplace seem
within the guidance.
Particular workers for example
pregnant workers, workers with a pre existing
medical condition or older workers may suffer
within the range. The nature of the work also
has an affect.
Wholly sedentary (permanently
desk based staff for example) will need a higher
workplace temperature to be comfortable than
more physically active workers.
Another issue that has come up
is that of workers who are required to work
outdoors during the severe weather. Your manager
is responsible for your Health and Safety. If
duties outside a set workplace are part of your
job then the Risk Assessment of your job should
reflect this. Severe weather is a factor that
needs to be taken into account.
If the Risk Assessment doesn't
do this then it needs to be revised when severe
weather is a factor. Whether workers should
be carrying out duties in adverse conditions
is a decision for managers to make but they
must ensure that the work is safely carried
Issues such as lone working, the
provision of PPE (protective clothing) or temporary
transfer to other duties are amongst the issues
that managers may want to consider.
Please ensure that if you complete
an accident/incident form it should be forwarded
to your manager who should in turn forward it
to Health and Safety Section. A copy should
also be forwarded to your Safety Representative.
If you don't have one on your site please forward
it to the Branch Health and Safety Officer,
UNISON Branch Office, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh.
The Health and Safety Executive
define a manager's responsibilities for Thermal
Comfort with regard to Cold Temperatures as
follows; "This section outlines your responsibilities
as a manager, and suggests some ways you can
improve thermal comfort in the workplace.
· Managing thermal comfort in
· In organisations where thermal
discomfort in indoor environments is a risk,
it is vital that management provides a visible
commitment to the health and well-being of their
· In many workplaces, thermal
discomfort may only occur during unscheduled
repair and maintenance work, when heating ventilation
and air conditioning systems either break down
or don't work as intended, e.g. during the hottest
or coldest months. When this occurs, it is important
to consider the possible impact of increased
thermal discomfort on employees.
· It is the responsibility of
management to ensure that a company adapts as
necessary to reduce or eliminate the risk of
thermal discomfort amongst the employees. If
thermal discomfort is a risk, and your employees
are complaining and/or reporting illnesses that
may be caused by the thermal environment, then
you will be required to develop a thermal comfort
· You may need to train and/or
re-train staff. Training may be required for
the thermal comfort risk assessments, analysis
of data, and interpretation of results and implementation
of controls. Training may also be required to
explain to staff how, by modifying their working
practices (such as clothing worn, work rate
etc), they may be able to adapt to their thermal
· The thermal conditions may
need to be monitored and where possible recorded.
· Health surveillance or medical
screening may be required for staff that have
special requirements such as pregnancy, certain
illnesses, disabilities and/or maybe taking
medication. Medical advice should be sought
· Adequate and appropriate risk
assessment procedures are essential. Records
of all procedures and results should be kept
as part of your risk management programme.
· Working habits and current practices
need to be reviewed periodically and (where
necessary) changed, to meet your obligations
to control the risks your employees may face.
When people are too cold You can help ensure
thermal comfort when working in the cold by:
· providing adequate workplace
heating, e.g. portable heaters; · reducing cold
exposure by designing processes that minimise
exposure to cold areas and cold products where
· reducing draughts;
· 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, e.g. flexible working
patterns, job rotation;
· allowing sufficient breaks to
enable employees to get hot drinks or to warm
up in heated areas".
If you have any queries about
problems in your workplace please contact your
local Safety Representative or the Branch Health
and Safety Officer.
Branch Health and Safety Officer
22 December 2010