WORKING IN HIGH OR LOW TEMPERATURES
Although there is a legal limit below which workplace temperatures should not fall (usually 16°C), most people may be surprised to learn there is no upper limit.
For many years the TUC has been pushing for a change in safety regulations to introduce a new maximum temperature of 30°C – or 27°C for those doing strenuous work – with employers forced to adopt cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24°C.
Employers who provide cool and comfortable work environments will get more out of their staff when it’s sweltering, says the TUC. Workers who work where there is no air-conditioning, fans or cold drinking water will feel lethargic, and lack inspiration and creativity.
Extreme heat can be as unpleasant to work in as extreme cold, and so long as the UK has no legal maximum working temperature, many workers will be working in conditions that are not just personally unpleasant, but will also be affecting their productivity.
Making sure that everyone has access to fans, portable air conditioning units and cold drinking water, and the ability to take “fatigue” breaks, should help reduce the effect of heat in shops and offices across the country.
Set out below are some short extracts from the Health & Safety Executive Approved Code of Practice.
(Regulation 7 Temperature in indoor workplaces)
During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.
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. However, these temperatures may not necessarily provide reasonable comfort, depending on other factors such as air movement, relative humidity and worker clothing.
Temperature readings should be taken close to workstations, at working height and away from windows. A sufficient number of thermometers shall be provided to enable persons at work to determine the temperature in any workplace inside a building.
If the temperature in a workroom is uncomfortably high, local heating or cooling (as appropriate) should be provided. In extremely hot weather, fans and increased ventilation may be used instead of local cooling.
In areas of the workplace other than workrooms, such as toilets and rest facilities, temperatures should be reasonable. Changing rooms and shower rooms should not be cold.
Temporary heating/cooling and other control measures should be provided where appropriate for employees required to work in normally unoccupied rooms such as storerooms, other than for short periods and where there is a risk of working in temperatures below those stated above.
Suitable protective clothing and rest facilities should be provided in instances where local heating or cooling fails to give reasonable comfort.
Where practical, there should be systems of work (eg task rotation) to ensure the amount of time individual workers are exposed to uncomfortable temperatures is limited.
If temperatures are too low, or too high, then in the first instance employees should talk to their store manager. If nothing is done quickly to resolve the problem, then members should contact us for advice and assistance.
Seating at work
Set out below is an extract from the Health & Safety Executive guidance on seating.
“A suitable seat shall be provided for each person at work in the workplace whose work includes operations of a kind that the work (or a substantial part of it) can or must be done sitting.
A seat shall not be suitable for the purposes above unless –
(a) it is suitable for the person for whom it is provided as well as for the
operations to be performed; and
(b) a suitable footrest is also provided where necessary”
If you find that the bulk of your working day is, for instance, fixed to one till location then you should ask your manager to provide a suitable seat. If this is not provided, then members should contact us for advice and assistance.
Working alone is not in itself against the law and it will often be safe to do so. However, the law requires employers to consider carefully, and then deal with, any health and safety risks for people working alone.
Employers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare at work of all their workers. They also have responsibility for the health and safety of any contractors or self-employed people doing work for them.
These responsibilities cannot be transferred to any other person, including those people who work alone.
Workers have responsibilities to take reasonable care of themselves and other people affected by their work activities and to co-operate with their employers in meeting their legal obligations.
Who are lone workers and what jobs do they do?
Lone workers are those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision, for example:
■ A person working alone in a small workshop, petrol station, kiosk or shop
■ People working on their own outside normal hours, eg cleaners and security, maintenance or repair staff, night stockroom workers
Employers have a duty to assess risks to lone workers and take steps to avoid or control risks where necessary.
Employers who have five or more employees must record the significant findings of all risk assessments. The risk assessments should cover such things as
■ Is there a risk of violence and/or aggression?
■ Are there any reasons why the individual might be more vulnerable than others and be particularly at risk if they work alone (for example if they are young, pregnant, disabled or a trainee)?
■ If a person has a medical condition, are they able to work alone?
Procedures must be put in place to monitor lone workers as effective means of communication are essential. These may include:
■ supervisors periodically visiting and observing people working alone;
■ pre-agreed intervals of regular contact between the lone worker and supervisor, using phones, radios or email, bearing in mind the worker’s understanding of English;
What happens if a person becomes ill, has an accident, or there is an emergency?
An assessment of the risks should identify foreseeable events. Emergency procedures should be established and employees trained in them.