ARE you hot under the collar as the heatwave strikes?

With the Mercury soaring and workplaces potentially turning into saunas, you may be wondering 'how hot does it really have to be before we can go home?'

Unfortunately, thermometer-watching employees in the North-East should not down tools yet, because the Health and Safety Executive’s guidance leaves enough grey areas to make it a tricky question to answer.

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HSE previously defined thermal comfort in the workplace as: "An acceptable zone of thermal comfort roughly between 13°C (56°F) and 30°C (86°F)."

The law does not state a minimum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least: 16°C, or 13°C if much of the work is physical, say the HSE.

While regulation seven of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace – working as a baker being quite different from working in cold storage, for example.

At the upper end of the scale though, things seem even less well defined.

There is no set maximum temperature for when it is too hot to work but the law states that employers must provide a “reasonable” temperature.

Workers are being told to advise their employer if the workplace temperature isn’t comfortable.

But employers can still demand their staff to dress in a particular way, no matter the weather or the temperature, as uniform or clothing expectations are often included in a contract of employment.

Judging by the HSE’s guidance, the best an average office worker can hope for is to adopt an all-for-one attitude and complain en-masse.

HSE guidance states that your employer may need to consider carrying out a ‘thermal comfort risk assessment if:

  • More than ten per cent of people in an air conditioned office complain of being too hot or cold.
  • The figure rises to 15 per cent in air conditioned offices and 20 per cent in retail business, warehouse, factories or other indoor environments without air conditioning.

However – this being Britain, after all – it’ll most likely be raining again by the time you’ve mobilised enough support.

If you’re thinking of organising your own rebellion, find out more at hse.gov.uk/temperature/faq.htm