How High Temperatures At Work Can Be Bad For Your Health

February 13 2022

James Patten


With the Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS) warning us that British summers could hit highs of 40°C every three to four years, now could be the time to start reassessing the heating and cooling system within your workplace. 

Professor Liz Bentley, the chief executive of RMetS has warned that the average temperature in the UK has already increased by 1.2°C and is likely to rise a further 0.3°C as each year passes. “Extreme temperatures and heatwaves are going to become much more intense. We’re likely to see 40°C in the UK… it’ll start to become something that we see on a much more regular basis.”

These scorching statistics are backed up by Mike Kendon, the climate scientist at the Met Office, “In seven out of the last ten years, we’ve seen temperatures of 34°C in the UK compared to seven out of the previous fifty years before that. This is an indication of the fact that our baseline of our climate is changing and what we regard as normal is changing.

Too hot to handle?  How hot is too hot for your employees?

With these rising temperatures in mind, employers will need to consider the health and wellbeing of their staff members during the summer months. Although there is no law which deems that a working environment is too hot to work, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) do provide advice for both employers and employees when it comes to managing the heat of the moment.

Employers must stick to the health and safety at work law by:

  • keeping the temperature at a comfortable level 
  • providing clean and fresh air

The HSE take six basic factors into account when it comes to considering the welfare of a workforce and your heating and cooling systems are paramount to adhering to these.

Air temperature: This is the temperature of the air surrounding your employees. A comfortable temperature to work productively in is expected.

Radiant Temperature: Does your work place have ovens, kilns, machinery, molten metals, a large bank of computers? If so, they all have an influence on the air temperature.

Air Velocity: Does the air in your working environment circulate well? If still or stagnant air builds up in a workplace odours can impregnate the air and cause a ‘stuffy’ environment. 

Humidity: Work places of high humidity have a lot of vapour in the air which hinders the evaporation of sweat from the skin making for unpleasant working environments. Air cooling systems are effective at reducing the humidity within a working space.

Clothing Insulation: Does your workforce wear a uniform or PPE? Is the expected dress code suitable for the temperatures in which your staff work? The HSE do highlight the importance of identifying how clothing contributes to thermal comfort at work. By re-evaluating your heating and cooling systems at work you will improve the working conditions for your staff and hopefully their productivity alongside it!

Metabolic Heat: There is a strong correlation between the physicality of the work that your staff do with the amount of heat that they produce. The more heat produced will lead to more heat needing to be lost (so that your workforce don’t overheat). The HSE state that ‘the impact of metabolic rate on thermal comfort is critical’. This is where an air-conditioning system can play a pivotal role in maintaining the welfare of your team. 

What is the ideal working temperature for your team?

With different industries creating varying levels of heat it can be hard for employers to know what the correct temperature for their staff should be. The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) recommends the following:

Heavy work in factories: 13°C

Light work in factories: 16°C

Hospital wards and shops: 18°C 

Offices and dining rooms: 20°C

The CIBSE also clearly state on their website that ‘Indoor operative temperatures over 28°C for long periods will result in increased dissatisfaction and reduced productivity.

Do you want a consistent temperature for your working environment?

With the ongoing threat of global warming bringing warmer working conditions to the UK we are proud to say that Heritage Heating & Cooling Systems can offer your team a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution. By visiting your workplace we will be able to assess the various factors which will affect your ambient temperature and provide the correct heating or cooling system to keep your staff both happy and productive.

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