Thermal comfort can be affected by many things including:
Thermal discomfort (being too hot or too cold) is based on an individual’s perception, so thermal comfort for one person may be discomfort for another. For this reason the University cannot provide a thermal environment that suits everyone all the time, but aims to provide a thermal environment that satisfies the majority of people most of the time.
In the majority of cases working in environments that people find too hot or too cold will not lead to physical harm. However it will lead to complaints, affect morale and may affect productivity. It can contribute to stress and an increase in accidents, which could be a significant issue in high risk work environments.
Some work environments may be excessively hot, leading to a risk of heat stress, or excessively cold, leading to a risk of cold stress. Employees working outdoors during very hot weather may also be at risk from the effects of the sun (sun stroke, sun burn or skin cancer).
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require that indoor workplaces should:
The Approved Code of Practice to the Regulations states that the temperature of indoor workplaces should normally be at least 16ºC (62ºF) for sedentary activities and 13ºC (56ºF) for work involving physical effort. No maximum temperature is specified, however an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people is in the range 13Cº (56Fº) and 30ºC (86Fº). Those undertaking strenuous activities will find temperatures at the bottom end of the range more acceptable, whilst sedentary workers will prefer warmer temperatures.
The higher acceptable comfort level is subject to external thermal conditions. The University will usually only consider making significant investment in improving thermal comfort (eg air conditioning) when employees are working in internal temperatures that are five degrees above external temperatures. The HSE considers 80% of occupants as a reasonable limit for the minimum number of people who should be thermally comfortable in an environment and also sets out legal requirements.
The control of risks relating to thermal conditions while working outdoors are covered by the general requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and so should be determined through risk assessment.
The University endeavours to provide appropriate room temperatures during the winter heating period (1 October - 30 April), (minimum 18oC for office space and 20oC for residential accommodation) but cannot control space temperatures during the summer period. In some instances it can be difficult to attain a reasonable temperature because external conditions are high and the nature of some of the University's buildings (particularly those built in the 1960s, with highly glazed concrete structures with flat roofs).
Where possible, position computer workstations out of direct sunlight (in the cooler part of the office), with the screen/keyboard at right angles to the window to reduce risk of glare or reflection (see advice on
PPE is intended to protect staff from a primary hazard, but sometimes people wear more than is necessary. Consider whether staff can wear less PPE and still have the protection they require or whether other controls would reduce or eliminate the need for PPE. Remember PPE should be a last resort.
The University does not support the acquisition or use of supplementary heaters. Such items can only be provided by the Estate Management Section in the event of temperatures falling below 18oC (eg due to an emergency or mechanical failure of the heating system) or at the discretion of the Director of Estate Management. For further information refer to the University's
If the advice above is insufficient to resolve the problem, speak to your line manager. If you experience ill health related to the thermal conditions a health and safety incident form should also be completed.
If all reasonable steps have been taken, further action may be necessary if more than 15% of staff are complaining of being too hot or too cold.
The Estate Management Section can assist with monitoring thermal conditions such as temperature and humidity over a period of time. They will also be able to give advice on possible solutions to obvious problems, such as action to deal with draughts.
Heads of Department or Health and Safety Liaison Officers will need to confirm that the manager has taken reasonable steps within his/her control to mitigate the problems. If so, and there is still clearly a significant problem with the thermal environment, the Estates Management Section should be asked to investigate reasonably practicable solutions.
The University has to balance health and safety with the need to control costs and protect the environment. Air conditioning can also bring different thermal comfort problems or health risks if not correctly maintained. For these reasons air conditioning is only permitted in certain circumstances and it would normally only be considered if the combined effects of the heat input from people, lights and machinery cause the room temperatures to rise more than 5ºC above the ambient temperature. For further information refer to the University's
Exposure to the sun can cause skin damage including sunburn, blistering and skin ageing. In the long term it can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. Sun protection is important as sunburnt skin is damaged skin.
Hot and humid conditions, coupled with physically demanding work, can also lead to heat stress. Managers responsible for staff who are required to work in the sun need to consider the risks as part of their risk assessment.
Unnecessary exposure can be avoided by:
If your staff work outside, encourage them to check their skin regularly for unusual spots or moles that change size, shape or colour and seek medical advice promptly if they find anything that causes them concern.
Heat stress may occur in work environments where excessive temperatures are created by the work process (eg catering kitchens or working outdoors in very hot conditions) and can lead to symptoms such as:
Managers responsible for activities where there is a risk of heat stress should carry out a risk assessment if the nature of the work activity or environment means there is a risk of heat stress. It is recommended that the HSE guidance on assessingrisks associated with heat stress is followed.
Measures to control risk from cold environment includes:
Please refer to the HSE for further guidance on working in excessively cold environments: