The Employers Guide to Workplace Thermal Comfort - Image

The Employers Guide to Workplace Thermal Comfort

It’s hot. The sun seems to be forever shining and many of us are in a good mood as we eat our lunch in the park and spend the evening in a beer garden. But for others, the heat can bring a high level of discomfort at the workplace. This is bad news for employers as discomfort can cause serious productivity and motivational issues.

As a business owner, what does the law say about what you are required to offer to your employees at work and what realistic steps can you take to improve the level of “thermal comfort” amongst your workforce?

Legally there is no minimum or maximum workplace temperature

The law does not specify a particular temperature as being too hot or too cold to work. The reason for this is that many aspects decide whether a workplace is unfit for work beyond what the thermostat tells us.

For instance, air temperature, humidity, air velocity (draughts), clothing and level of physical activity all offer varying contributions to deciding if a workplace is too uncomfortable to work in. So instead of offering temperature guides, the law looks at something called “thermal comfort” to decide whether a workplace is suitable to work in.

As an employer, you are obliged to provide a reasonable environment to work in. This is deliberately vague as workplaces vary depending on the job. A construction worker working outside will have a different opinion on what is suitable compared to an office worker.

Thermal Comfort is a condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment

Thermal comfort is not so much about assessing stats or temperature gages, but more about the opinions of employees. The Health and Safety Executive website considers that if 80% of your employees are satisfied with their working environment, you are doing pretty well, as it is extremely difficult to please everybody.

You can find a Thermal Comfort Checklist here which asks some basic questions about the environment.

How to improve Thermal Comfort levels

You can improve thermal comfort levels in your workplace by using a variation of a few of the below examples. Some of the ideas below are cheaper methods than others.

  • Fans – Personal fans can be used to increase airflow and improve the evaporation of sweat. Feel free to mix this up with some bottles of frozen water to lower the temperature of the air being blown around.
  • Open Windows – Ensure windows can be opened to improve air flow. This will only work, however, if the air temperature outside is lower than that inside.
  • Clothing and Uniforms – If appropriate, relax uniform attire. Changing a shirt and tie to a light t-shirt can make all the difference.
  • Shade from the Sun – Being in direct sunlight will certainly heat up your employees. Ensure there are blinds to protect from the beaming sun.
  • Provide cold water – Sometimes it doesn’t matter how long you run the tap for, it still come out warm. A cool drink dispenser or water cooler will provide a way for employees to stay hydrated and cool.
  • Adjust work hours – Depending on your type of work, a change in work hours may benefit your employees as the mornings are often cooler than the afternoon sun.
  • Air Conditioning – The usual go-to for cooling, air con units can come in various types, sizes, and price brackets. Once set up though, air con is the easiest way to improve the temperature of the room.

For more information on Thermal Comfort, visit the HSE.GOV website. And don’t forget to give this article a quick Like or Tweet.

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