Heat and light
Thermal comfort and ventilation in the workplace
All workplaces are covered by the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act), which sets out the general duties that an employer has towards employees and members of the public and those responsibilities which employees have to themselves and to each other. Although the HSW Act does not mention temperature specifically, employers should ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of employees. This includes providing a working environment that is both safe and without risk to health under Regulation 7 of the HSW Act.
The Approved Code of Practice states that 'all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature'. It also states that thermometers should be provided by the employer in each workplace/room. If the temperature in a workplace is uncomfortable, insist that it is measured.
The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16˚C (60˚F), unless much of the work involves severe physical effort, in which case it should be at least 13˚C (55˚F). However, these temperatures may not ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other such factors as air movement and relative humidity.
Where a reasonably comfortable temperature cannot be achieved throughout a workplace, local heating or cooling (as appropriate) should be provided. In extremely hot weather, fans and increased ventilation may be used for this purpose, instead of local cooling.
In parts of the workplace other than where work is carried out, such as sanitary facilities or rest facilities, the temperature should be reasonable in all circumstances. Changing rooms and shower rooms should not be cold.
Working in unsatisfactory thermal conditions without adequate supplies of fresh air can pose problems. Regulation 6 decrees enclosed workplaces should be sufficiently well ventilated so that stale air is replaced at a reasonable rate. Air which is taken from the outside can normally be considered as 'fresh' and, in many cases, windows or other openings will provide sufficient ventilation in some or all parts of the workplace. Workers should not be subject to uncomfortable draughts. Mechanical ventilation systems (including air-conditioning) should be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air. Special care and attention should be taken where there is an exposure to any chemical hazards — for instance, dry ice, oil mist, glycol or mineral oil smoke or pyrotechnic smoke effects.
For more details, visit the HSE website at hse.gov.uk/temperature/thermal.
Lighting levels in the workplace
The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) obliges employers to provide adequate lighting in the workplace, to ensure that work can be done safely and employees' health or eyesight is not jeopardised. These provisions are contained in the Management of Health Safety at Work Regulations including Regulation 8 which states that the employer must ensure that:
- Every workplace has suitable and sufficient lighting.
- This should be natural light, so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Suitable and sufficient emergency lighting shall be provided where needed.
No detailed legal standards for illumination exist. Therefore, the Illuminating Engineering Society’s (IES) recommendations are generally adopted. The amount of light required depends on the type of work that is being undertaken.
The typical lighting problems that could be experienced include:
- Dark, shadowy or unlit areas
- A lack of natural light
- Glare from badly positioned lights, windows or reflecting surfaces
- Eyestrain or fatigue from bad posture caused by poor lighting
- Dirty or poorly maintained lighting
- Unsuitable decor, leading to lower light levels, excessive contrasts or too much glare
- Unsuitable coloured light effects
For further details and guidance, please refer to the Regulations quoted in this section or call the HSE information line on 0845 345 0055.