Extreme temperatures, both very hot and very cold, are a familiar problem for workers. While there is a legally enforceable minimum temperature in the workplace there is not a corresponding maximum enforceable temperature.
The temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16°C. If work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13°C.
Members who work outdoors include trolley collectors, backdoor staff and delivery drivers. Staff working outside should be provided with protective clothing and footwear to protect them from the elements as well as having access to facilities such as hot drinks, warm indoor rest areas and somewhere to dry and store wet clothing.
Work in cold rooms
People working inside freezers and chillers should have suitable protective clothing (providing several layers is best so that workers can adjust the level of protection to the work) and access to warm, dry accommodation for warm drinks and rest. For work in freezers, it may be necessary to limit the time spent inside and to provide recovery periods.
Usdaw wants to see a maximum working temperature introduced of 24°C. Experts say the comfort zone is normally in the region of 16°C to 24°C. As the temperature rises above this zone, heat exhaustion starts. People start to suffer loss of concentration, there are increases in accidents and loss of productivity. Symptoms include irritability, dizziness, headaches, nausea and fainting.
However, employers are expected to take reasonable steps to deal with situations where the temperature is uncomfortably high – this might include providing regular cold drinks, extending or increasing the frequency of break times and relaxing stringent dress codes.