Too hot to handle: Is there a maximum UK working temperature? Too hot to handle: Is there a maximum UK working temperature?

Too hot to handle: Is there a maximum UK working temperature?
03 Jul 2018

Luckily there is both legislation and guidance to help payroll managers stay on the right side of the law.

As the UK enjoys record-breaking temperatures, employers should spare more than a thought for their workers - and the inevitable questions over whether there is a maximum working temperature. But UK payroll professionals are used to finding answers in legislation and guidance so here it is:

Legislation

This issue comes under health and safety, which in Northern Ireland is a devolved issue.  There are two key pieces of legislation to explore: 

  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 in Great Britain; and
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993.

The legislation may be different for each, but the message is the same in regulation seven: 

“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.” 

But because the term “reasonable” is open to interpretation, it is necessary to look at the guidance:

Guidance

The guidance on this legislation is found in the relevant Approved Codes of Practice on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive (Northern Ireland) (HSENI) websites (note that while, the websites may be different, the guidance is the same):  

“The temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.”

The first point to understand here is that both the HSE and HSENI interpret the legislation as meaning that only minimum working temperatures exist – even though page 19 of the guidance refers to “thermal comfort” and points to more guidance on the HSE website.  Thermal comfort is controlled by two other pieces of legislation and involves employers ensuring they manage any risks to the health and safety of their workers:     

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; and
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland)

Conclusion 

There is nothing specific about maximum working temperatures in either the 1992 or 1993 health and safety legislation. But under the 1999 and 2000 laws, employers are required to manage the risk of excessive working temperatures by looking at thermal comfort. 

Because the guidance in Northern Ireland always points to the HSE website in Great Britain, here are some important links that employers could find helpful as the UK’s temperatures continue to rise:

 

A checklist can also be downloaded to help in carrying out thermal comfort risk assessments. 

Luckily there is both legislation and guidance to help payroll managers stay on the right side of the law.

As the UK enjoys record-breaking temperatures, employers should spare more than a thought for their workers - and the inevitable questions over whether there is a maximum working temperature. But UK payroll professionals are used to finding answers in legislation and guidance so here it is:

Legislation

This issue comes under health and safety, which in Northern Ireland is a devolved issue.  There are two key pieces of legislation to explore: 

  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 in Great Britain; and
  • The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993.

The legislation may be different for each, but the message is the same in regulation seven: 

“During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.” 

But because the term “reasonable” is open to interpretation, it is necessary to look at the guidance:

Guidance

The guidance on this legislation is found in the relevant Approved Codes of Practice on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive (Northern Ireland) (HSENI) websites (note that while, the websites may be different, the guidance is the same):  

“The temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.”

The first point to understand here is that both the HSE and HSENI interpret the legislation as meaning that only minimum working temperatures exist – even though page 19 of the guidance refers to “thermal comfort” and points to more guidance on the HSE website.  Thermal comfort is controlled by two other pieces of legislation and involves employers ensuring they manage any risks to the health and safety of their workers:     

  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999; and
  • The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland)

Conclusion 

There is nothing specific about maximum working temperatures in either the 1992 or 1993 health and safety legislation. But under the 1999 and 2000 laws, employers are required to manage the risk of excessive working temperatures by looking at thermal comfort. 

Because the guidance in Northern Ireland always points to the HSE website in Great Britain, here are some important links that employers could find helpful as the UK’s temperatures continue to rise:

 

A checklist can also be downloaded to help in carrying out thermal comfort risk assessments.