As a lengthy cold snap has now reached the UK this winter, the HSE is reminding employers of their responsibilities to keep their workers safe in the cold weather.
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers must assess the risk to workers and put controls in place to protect them. Temperature in the workplace is one of the risks employers should assess, whether the work is carried out indoors or outdoors. Consultations with employees or their representatives is one of the best ways to manage this risk. Once the risk of cold weather has been assessed, where required, employers must act on any findings by putting controls in place, including temporary or seasonal ones.
Temperatures indoors are covered by The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which states employers are under a duty to provide a “reasonable” temperature for their employees working indoors. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 require reasonable workplace temperatures for indoor areas of construction sites.
There is an Approved Code of Practice in the workplace regulations which employers need to be aware of. This is a comprehensive guide which helps employers understand regulatory requirements on a variety of workplace-related issues, one of which is temperature.
The minimum temperature for an indoor workplace should be at least:
However, rather than relying solely on the above temperatures, employers need to consider what the reasonable temperature for a particular workplace should be – for example a reasonable temperature for an office could be different to the temperature on a shop floor. Similarly, employers should be aware that separate areas of a building, even on the same floor, can differ in temperature.
Employers should think about practical steps that could help keep employees as comfortable as possible when working in the cold, such as providing adequate workplace heating, designing processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products, reducing draughts while maintaining adequate ventilation, providing insulated floor coverings or special footwear when workers have to stand for long periods on cold floors, and supplying adequate protective clothing. Also considering whether a change in work systems is necessary such as introducing flexible working patterns or providing more breaks to allow workers to warm up.
In relation to employees who work outdoors, if they are exposed to cold weather for long periods they are at risk of their health being affected. Employers are again under a duty to ensure employees are protected – for example, they must provide protection from adverse weather and, in addition, site rest facilities must be maintained at an appropriate temperature.
Consideration should be given to ensuring that appropriate PPE is supplied, mobile facilities for warming up are available, whether more frequent breaks are required and if start and finish times need to change, and also making sure that workers are aware of the early symptoms of cold stress.
In summary, while the colder weather is with us in winter, employers should:
For more information, please contact Neil Miller, Solicitor – Crime & Regulatory
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