Are You Turning Down The Heating At Work?

I had a Christmas shopping day on Monday and went to a couple of indoor shopping centres where I noticed that most of the shops were as cold inside as it was outside. While the cost of energy remains a…

Lee Craig author of minimum temperatures at work

Blog15th Dec 2023

By Lee Craig

I had a Christmas shopping day on Monday and went to a couple of indoor shopping centres where I noticed that most of the shops were as cold inside as it was outside.

While the cost of energy remains a concern for lots of businesses, turning down the heating, or worse, turning off the heating is not in the best interests of the business or your employees.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require all employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace, and suggest a minimum temperature for indoors should normally be at least: –

  • 16oC or,
  • 13oC if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort.

As an employer, you must decide what a reasonable temperature should be in your workplace by assessing the risk and acting on any findings by putting controls in place, including any temporary or seasonal considerations.

In indoor workplaces you should ensure that you are providing that “reasonable” working temperature and where you cannot achieve that think about:

  • Providing adequate heating, such as portable heaters, to ensure work areas are warm enough when they are occupied – it is important that portable heaters are safe for use as they can present a significant fire hazard. Portable electrical heaters should be subject to visual inspection prior to use and be included in the portable appliance testing regime.
  • Design processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products
  • Reduce draughts while still keeping adequate ventilation.
  • Provide insulating floor coverings or special footwear when workers have to stand for long periods on cold floors.
  • Provide appropriate protective clothing.

You can also change work systems:

  • Limit exposure by introducing systems such as flexible working patterns or job rotation.
  • Provide enough breaks to allow workers to get hot drinks or warm up in heated areas.

Temperature affects our rate of work. When we’re cold, we’re not just uncomfortable, we’re distracted. When our body temperature drops, we automatically expend more energy to keep ourselves warm, which leaves less brainpower for the tasks at hand. Concentration, inspiration, and insight are resources that colder temperatures immediately deprive us of, leading to a very clear impact on our productivity.

Employee wellbeing can also be affected by working in cold temperatures leading to higher susceptibility to illness, especially in winter when colds and flu are circulating along with the impact on mental health.  The CIPD estimates absence costs a company an average of around £554 – £557 per employee, per year depending on whether they are a manual or non-manual worker, and these costs can quickly start to stack up within larger workforces.

The direct costs of absence include:

  • paying the salary of the absent employee
  • overtime incurred by other employees covering for the absent employee.
  • loss of output incurred by the absent employee.

The indirect costs of absence include:

  • the time taken for a replacement to learn the new role and become productive.
  • possible diminished services and product quality
  • loss of business, continuity, and reputation
  • recruiting temporary or replacement staff
  • training and providing support to other staff.

Before you turn the thermostat down, or off – think about the impact on your employees, the working environment, and your customers.  Failing to do so may cost you more than keeping the heating on.

At this time of year, it’s easy to be concerned about the cold, take steps to ensure you’re compliant and then forget all about workplace temperatures again. However, ensuring that you’re abiding by The Workplace (Health and Safety and Welfare) Regulations all year round is important. That includes when temperatures start heating up. While we can all enjoy the warmer weather ensuring that the minimum temperature in hotter weather is equally just as important.

If you have any queries about your workplace’s health and safety, meeting health and safety regulations or any other H&S related issues please do not hesitate to get in contact with Lee Craig, or your usual AAB People contact.

By Lee Craig

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