As the United Kingdom grapples with the blustery impact of Storm Isha, employers are urged to prioritise the health and safety of their workforce.
In response to the current stormy season, the legal experts at Weightmans have outlined crucial insights on maintaining a secure and comfortable workplace during adverse weather conditions.
Essential Steps for Employers in Indoor Workspaces:
- Maintain a Reasonable Working Temperature: Ensure workplaces are kept at least 16°C (or 13°C for strenuous work).
- Provide Adequate Heating: Employ portable heaters to keep work areas warm during occupancy.
- Local Heating Solutions: Implement localised heating for specific workrooms, particularly in cold manufacturing processes.
- Balancing Draughts and Ventilation: Reduce draughts while maintaining adequate ventilation.
- Protective Clothing: Supply appropriate protective clothing for employees working in cold environments, such as cold stores.
- Insulating Measures: Install insulating floor coverings or provide special footwear for workers standing on cold floors for extended periods.
- Safe Heating Systems: Ensure heating systems do not emit dangerous or offensive levels of fumes into the workplace.
- Flexible Work Arrangements: Modify work schedules and locations to limit exposure to cold conditions, allowing flexibility in dress codes and providing breaks for warm-up.
Outdoor Workplace Safety Measures:
- Mobile Rest Facilities: Provide facilities at an appropriate temperature for warming up, along with soup or hot drinks.
- Frequent Rest Breaks: Introduce more frequent breaks to prevent prolonged exposure to cold weather.
- Gritting Surfaces: Use grit or similar materials on areas prone to becoming slippery in frosty or icy conditions.
- Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment: Ensure that any issued protective equipment is suitable for the conditions.
- Raise Awareness: Educate workers about early symptoms of cold stress, such as coughs or body aches.
Sarbjit Bisla, part of Weightman’s specialist health and safety team, emphasised the legal responsibilities employers hold when it comes to working in cold temperatures:
“There are no legal minimum and maximum temperatures for workplaces. However, all employers are expected to ensure indoor workplaces are kept at a reasonable temperature. The Approved Code of Practice for the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 suggests the minimum temperature should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius.”
Bisla continued, stating that employers have a general duty under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees.
Also, Regulation 7 of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 specifies the need for ‘reasonable’ temperatures inside buildings, requiring a sufficient number of thermometers for employees to monitor the workplace temperature. Employers are also obligated to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the risks associated with working in cold conditions, with findings to be duly recorded.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.