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Confusion over workplace temperature requirements

15 September 2013

A survey by a ventilation and air conditioning specialist has found that many managers are either confused or unaware of the maximum and minimum workplace temperatures for staff.

Bosses are also in the dark about other basic workplace requirements, such as noise, lighting, and toilet facilities, the UK-based Cosaf.co.uk company found.


"We are amazed that companies remain ignorant of what is basic employment law," said Cosaf.co.uk 's Mike Sullivan, "the information is easy to find, too, so there's really no excuse."


According to the Health and Safety Executive's Approved Code of Practice, while there is actually no legal minimum temperature for workplaces, the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C, or 13°C if much of the work is physical. However, companies are legally obliged to operate a work space that provides "reasonable" comfort.


According to the Cosaf.co.uk  survey:

• 52% of company managers did not know the 16°C or 13°C guideline limits

• 46% of bosses were unaware of the 30°C upper limit for reasonable temperatures


"Every summer and winter brings the same workplace arguments over maximum and minimum working temperatures depending on the weather," said Mike Sullivan, "Companies can mitigate against loss of productivity and angry workers simply by providing adequate workplace heating and ventilation."


Cosaf.co.uk also found many companies across the industrial, office and retail sectors that did not know about legal requirements for basic workplace provisions.


• 73% did not know that each member of staff should be allowed 11 cubic metres of space

• 60% did not know the minimum lighting levels for office workers

• 39% did not know the correct ratio of toilets to staff

• However, only 12% of factory bosses didn't know of noise and vibration guidelines


"It's interesting to note that companies know the regulations where they have a direct effect on production," said Mike Sullivan, "but when it comes to simple creature comforts like toilets, they're still very much in the dark."