When I was at high school, a legend prevailed that if the temperature fell below a certain level, then you got to go home.  We never did get to go early, no matter how frosty it got in that hellhole. But is there any truth in this?

The answer is: yes and no.

In terms of the pupils, there aren’t any rules governing the permissible temperature range. For the grown-ups, who are classified as workers (what the hell did they think the students were doing all day?), they are covered by The Workplace Health and Safety Regulations 1982. But even then, it’s not clear-cut. The Act says that employers must make their workplace ‘suitable’ in order to meet the health, safety, and welfare needs of everyone in their workforce. So how do we define suitable?

There is no official definition of this term. When designing a heating system, the parameters are selected based on guidance documents and confirmed in the design brief by agreement with the Client. Suitable can mean different things in different contexts. The HSE advises that sedentary workers should normally not be exposed to ambient temperatures lower than 16C, and manual work should not take place in environments cooler than 13C.

What about the upper limits? I haven’t been able to find a defined figure for this. The HSE provides guidance on thermal comfort and the avoidance of heat stress, which is complex and not easily remedied by applying a blanket figure. With predicted climate change, it is likely to become a greater concern for employers in the coming years.

Leave a Comment