Is it too cold to work?

Management & Growth, News,

This winter has been fairly mild so far, although the forecast is currently for a cold blast to arrive later this week. There is always the chance of a cold snap in January, and this often raises questions about whether it is too cold to work. This is actually one of the most popular questions on the HSE website.

Where do you stand as an employer?

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations places a requirement on employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace.

Clearly this will depend on what work is being done and the environmental conditions, but for an indoor workplace, the minimum temperature should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. This drops to 13 degrees Celsius where the work involves rigorous physical effort.

Under the same Regulations, employers have to assess the risks to workers and put in place controls to protect them. Temperature, whether indoors or outdoors, is one of those risks.

This means that employers need to be careful to ensure that the heating in each workspace is capable of maintaining a comfortable temperature. The heating system of course also needs to be well maintained so that it doesn’t give off dangerous fumes or offensive smells!

Since the Pandemic, good ventilation has been more of a concern for indoor workers, but it’s important to strike a careful balance. There are some basic points to consider:

  • Check that doors and windows can be closed properly to prevent cold drafts. 
  • Flexible working hours or early/late starts may help staff to avoid low temperatures. 
  • Relaxing formal dress codes may help staff be able to dress more appropriately for the temperature.
  • Pre-empt any questions in advance of any cold snap by making sure your team know what your policies are, and what you’re doing to keep them warm and safe.
  • Speak to your HR advisor if you’re unsure – ideally before the weather changes!

Further guidance is available on the HSE website.

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