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This winter has been one of the mildest on record so far, but there is still time for a cold snap, and this often raises questions about whether it is too cold to work. In fact, this question is one of the most popular topics on the HSE website.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations puts 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 alert to ensuring that the heating in each workroom is capable of maintaining a comfortable temperature. The heating system too needs to be well maintained so that it doesn’t give off dangerous fumes or offensive smells.
It may also help to 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. And relaxing formal dress codes may help staff be able to dress more appropriately for the temperature.
Further guidance is available on the HSE website.