Is it too hot to work?
Every year when we are fortunate enough (or unfortunate, depending on your point of view) to have anything like a summer, the same question always gets asked…….At what temperature are we allowed to go home?
The simple answer is, there is no specified upper temperature which is deemed too hot to work. The reason for this is because some industries will have high temperatures due to activities being undertaken, such as foundries or bakeries.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations approved code of practice and guidance does however suggest a minimum temperature, in an indoor workroom which "should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.”
The actual Regulation states “During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.”
If a significant number of employees complain about being too hot (thermal discomfort), employers should undertake a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment, remembering to take account of more vulnerable employees who for example may be undergoing the menopause, have a thyroid imbalance or who are required to wear protective equipment so cannot take off layers.
Fairly straight forward measures for indoor workplaces can include opening windows, introducing oscillating fans, mobile air conditioning units, closing blinds to deflect the suns rays, relaxing any formal dress codes.
Remember that people complaining of discomfort, is not just about the actual air temperature, but air velocity, humidity, sources of radiant temperature, metabolic heat and clothing insulation, all of which need consideration.
Air velocity is the speed at which air moves and may help cool people down provided the air is cooler than the environment.
Humidity is the amount of water vapour in the air and the higher the humidity the human body is less effective at sweating and thus does not cool the body as well as it could. We also refer to relative humidity which is the proportion between the actual amount of water vapour in the air and the maximum amount of water vapour that the air can hold at a particular air temperature.
Relative humidity between 40% and 70% is an acceptable level and is usually comfortable for most people. High levels of humidity (greater than 80%) will cause people to become uncomfortable and action should be taken.
Radiant temperature is the heat from an object, examples of objects which produce radiant heat are, the Sun, gas and electric fires, irons, cookers, hobs, barbeques, kettles etc.
Metabolic heat is heat generated by the body whilst performing physical tasks, the more physical a task is the more heat we will produce. When assessing this element you must also take account of the persons sex, size, weight, physical fitness and age as all can have a bearing on their comfort levels.
Clothing insulation is simply the clothes that people wear and in some cases need to wear (PPE for example).