Workplace temperature office too hot in summer

Workplace temperature: how to keep employees cool when the office is hot

One of the unfortunate things about living in the UK is that, despite our temperamental weather, we never quite seem prepared for the summer heat! This means that when the weather gets hotter or we get a heatwave, a lot of British workers find themselves sticky and uncomfortable and operating in an  unbearable workplace temperature.

But can the office or other types of workplace become legally too hot work in? Is there an allowed maximum temperature at work? Here we'll take a look at what employees are entitled to when the weather heats up and what employers can do to help employees to be more comfortable at work.

What is the hottest legal temperature to work in the UK?

Hottest legal workplace temperature UK

According to the Health and Safety Executive, there is no maximum (or indeed minimum) working temperature in law. However, employers need to adhere to the relevant health and safety rules, such as keeping a comfortable temperature in the workplace and providing fresh, clean air.

The guidelines on how hot or cold an office should be are particularly vague; the Health and Safety Executive just says that the temperature should be 'reasonable'. This of course means different things for different workplaces, so it is difficult to gauge what exactly reasonable means.

Recommended guidelines for workplace temperatures

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have released recommended guidelines advising employers to never let temperatures in the workplace rise above 30°C (or 27°C for those doing strenuous work). Similarly, the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) suggest that the temperature range for comfort in offices should be:

  • 21-23ºC in the winter
  • 22-24 ºC in the summer

Again, this depends on the context of your organisation and the work that employees are undertaking, particularly if the work itself or equipment produces more heat.

What are the health and safety issues with heat?

The TUC report that hot temperatures can lead to employees losing concentration and feeling tired more easily, which can increase the likelihood of accidents and other health and safety issues. Extreme heat could even lead to dizziness, fainting, and heat cramps.

There are particular concerns for more vulnerable workers, such as those with health conditions or medication that interact poorly with hot temperatures, or pregnant workers (note that these are or - in the case of health conditions - could be protected characteristics).

Being overheated will also lead to less productivity for many, as it can be a struggle to work effectively in soaring temperatures. So, while an employer doesn't have to increase comfort levels for employees according to the law (though any related health and safety risks should be taken very seriously), the employer must weigh up the quality of work and the level of respect they will receive should they put a little effort into helping out their workforce!

Learn more: What are the main health and safety responsibilities of employers?

How to keep employees comfortable in the heat

keep-employees-comfortable-heat

It's important to assess risks and consider how to provide employees with a comfortable and safe working environment in all weathers and temperatures. Here are some examples on what employers can do to achieve such an environment:

  • Windows: covering windows e.g. with blinds, anti-reflective glazing, or external overhangs/recesses.
  • Cooling systems: the installation of air conditions, ventilation, fans.
  • Display screens: employers should ensure workstation equipment isn't producing excess heat.
  • Personal protective equipment: PPE should be designed to help keep employees as cool as possible.
  • Dress code: if there is a strict uniform or dress code, consider modifying this for hot weather if this would provide more comfort.
  • Water: having access to chilled water or ice can really help on those hot days!
  • Software: to get a better overview of health and safety within your organisation year-round, whatever the weather, health and safety management software is a great monitoring solution.

Find out how to use online health and safety management software to capture critical information and maintain employee wellbeing.

health and safety management software
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Written by Camille Brouard

Camille is a Senior Marketing Executive for myhrtoolkit who writes on topics including HR technology, workplace culture, leave management, diversity, and mental health at work.

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