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July 1, 2009

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HSE to review maximum work temperature

The Government has asked the HSE to review the regulations on workplace

temperature, according to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied


It follows increasing concerns among employers that workers are unable to maintain concentration and productivity levels at work in heatwave conditions.

Productivity has been shown to decrease at temperatures of 25OC and above, according to insurer RSA. Although the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992 stipulate that work areas should be at least 16OC for a comfortable environment, there is currently no legal maximum temperature, and, according to the Regulations, employers are only required to keep workplaces to a ‘reasonable’ temperature.

Risks to workers’ health, such as heat stress, increase as conditions deteriorate from those accepted as comfortable. For such reasons, the TUC is calling for an absolute indoor maximum of 30OC, with rules that force employers to introduce cooling measures when the temperature hits 24OC, so as not to compromise safety.

John Hannett, Usdaw general secretary said: “Many Usdaw members suffer from high temperatures at work and we have long campaigned for a legal maximum workplace temperature. We are delighted that the Government has listened to us and is reviewing the situation.”

He added: “I am personally hopeful that a maximum workplace temperature will be put in place by the end of this year so that, next summer, workers will be able to work comfortably and in the knowledge that they are protected in law.”

Low-cost measures to keep employees cool, and therefore working at maximum productivity, include:

  • hiring mobile air-conditioning units, or fans;
  • supplying unlimited cool drinking water;
  • allowing staff to wear more casual clothing, such as shorts and vest tops;
  • installing blinds or reflective film on to windows;
  • moving desks away from windows;
  • allowing more flexible working so that staff can travel to and from work when the air is cooler; and
  • allowing frequent breaks.


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