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Low Temperatures at Work

Queries about cold workplaces often come from members who are working in shops – especially those working at checkouts or at kiosks who are not as mobile as colleagues in other parts of the store.

Usdaw has previously negotiated the provision of temporary heating, the relaxation of dress codes, extra breaks for people to warm up and the rotation of work to prevent staff spending too long in cold areas.

Your Usdaw Health and Safety Rep has legal powers to investigate and take up issues with management. Some retailers have been prosecuted for breaching temperature regulations.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government and STUC have agreed a Fair Work Charter for Severe Weather. Following the disruption caused by bad weather in early 2018, it is designed to support employers to manage the impacts of severe weather on workers and their business, by adopting fair working practices.

Are there laws against low temperature?
Health and safety regulations state that the temperature of all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable, with a recommended minimum of 16°C or 13°C if employees are doing physical work. Your employer must also provide enough thermometers for you to measure the temperature.
I work outside a lot of the time and the winter weather can get nasty. What clothing should I have?
Winter clothing is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and should be provided wherever there is a risk. Several layers are best so you can adjust your clothing depending on the work you’re doing. Your outer layer of clothing should be waterproof and any safety shoes should have slip-resistant soles. Talk to your Usdaw Rep if you haven’t been issued suitable clothing.
I work as a driver and the roads can be dangerous in winter. How can we be more prepared?
Your employer should have stocked up on salt and grit to keep the yard and access points as free from ice as possible. You should also have received refresher training on defensive driving in winter, covering points such as checking lights, wipers and tyres before setting out, checking the weather forecast before starting a route and carrying a shovel, flask of hot drink and a blanket on board. It should be made clear that you can abandon a journey if it’s not safe to continue.

I live in an isolated area and when the weather is bad, the roads can be dangerous. I’m not sure it’s safe to drive to work in this weather.
Your employer should have a weather policy in place that sets out what is expected of you and what to do when snow and ice prevents you from getting to work. We advise our members to follow advice from the Met Office on whether or not it is safe to travel. If you don’t think it is safe to attempt the journey, follow your employer’s procedure about contacting work to let them know you won’t be in. Ask your Usdaw rep if you’re unsure about the policy where you work. If you do decide to travel, the Government provides advice on driving in winter weather.

Our ability to improve our members’ lives increases with every person who joins us, so for help staying out of the cold this winter, join Usdaw today.


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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers