As the temperature drops, the Health and Safety Executive have simplified guidelines to make it easier to understand the requirements, and risks.
Under their basic guidance around how temperature factors into working conditions, the HSE offer insight into commonly asked queries, including:
- Is it too hot or cold to work?
- Information around hot and cold stress
- How workers can help keep temperatures comfortable
- What the law says about temperature in and working conditions
How cold is too cold?
The HSE says indoor temperatures should be at least 16 degrees, or 13 if some rigorous activity is involved.
What does the law say?
The Health and Safety at work law says that employers must keep temperature at a comfortable level and provide clean and fresh air.
There is no law around specific temperatures, and different sectors might be more accustomed to lower temperatures, such as those who have people working outside on a frequent basis.
If that’s the case, the organisation’s risk assessment should address temperature risks, especially for those who have health conditions which may be exacerbated in extreme temperatures.
Will employers subsidise homeworkers’ heating bills?
This topic is coming up more and more, as high energy prices, cold weather, and the sheer number of homeworkers put employers and employees alike in a bit of a bind. The short answer is no, but they can offer practical advice on how to stay warm.
This might include coming into the office, or suggesting a portable heater to warm just the room the employee is working from. They can also signpost employees to existing tax breaks for those who work from home, which offer some relief on gas and electricity bills.
These are just suggestions as, unlike in the office, an employer has no say or control over how an employee heats their home.
Lone working considerations
Freezing conditions can present life-threatening hazards to employees, so it’s vital they have the means to call for help if needed.
Our PG Smart App allows users to register a pre-alert if, for example, they were beginning to experience the symptoms of cold stress. Users can also set a time at risk if they were setting off driving in cold weather, raising an SOS if that time elapses.
Driving in cold weather
If asking an employee to make a long journey, say for a business meeting, consider providing a hire car to reduce the risk of being stranded in low temperatures.
The benefits of this, aside from using a car that may have lower mileage, is that the hire car should be well prepared for colder weather, with adequate levels of oil, coolant and windscreen wash, tyres and wiper blades in good condition, and all lights working.
Ensuring employees are making the same checks to their own cars before they set off on a long journey might prove more challenging.