Managing the ventilation and heat in any working environment is important, whether it is because your employees are concerned of the impact of the “Weather” in the office or if the employees are working “At or In heat” as part of their role.
The main impacts of poor ventilation and heat in the Workplace are:
- Fatigue, discomfort, distraction, even absence.
- Psychological episodes, such as stress.
- Spread transmittable diseases, and or airborne viruses.
- Continuous exposes to ventilation hazards can lead to hypersensitivity, allergies, Sinus, congestion, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath.
- Embarrassing and uncomfortable personal hygiene issues, resulting in an uncomfortable and disgruntled workforce.
As an employer you are responsible for ensuring there is a safe working environment at all costs,
For inside work you should provide;
- A working environment no less than between 16°C, or 13°C for strenuous work (unless other laws require lower temperatures).
- A comfortable temperature should be maintained, either from cooling or heating. ( Fans, cooling systems, opening windows, radiators,).
- Thermal clothing, rest facilities where necessary.
- Heating systems, that don’t give off dangerous or offensive levels of fume in the workplace.
- Spacious workrooms.
We have all had an experience where we are hot- to cold or the employees complain they are hot in the working environment. As an employer you can help with their comfort.
You Can Help By:
- Providing a variety of fans, all different sizes and speeds.
- Ensuring windows can be open
- Sitting workstations away from direct sunlight, or in situations that have direct heat i.e. plant machinery.
- Both flexible and formal dress codes, but ensuring personal protective clothing is not compromised.
- Regular cooling breaks, to allow employees to get cold drinks or cool down, (where possible have facilities to freshen up)
- Provide water dispenser, and water heating facilities for tea or coffee.
- Provide additional facilities to keep food and drinks cool, such as a fridge and freezer.
- Introduce formal procedures to reduce exposure, flexible working, rotations
- Ensure insulation materials are around pipes and hot plants
- Adequate heating, and or portable heating facilities
- Reducing drafts through conducting a risk assessment.
- Have procedures, rotations, and flexible working in place to reduce over exposure to extreme cold environments.
- Providing insulation flooring, or special footwear for employees who stand for long periods of time.
- Providing breaks to allow employees to warm up.
Who can help?
In extreme cases of working in very high and temperatures you will require specialised advice and guidance from professionals like ourselves who are qualified, here.
We can support with risk assessments, thermo checklists, workplace H&S and Welfare guides, along with regular reviews of working patterns and habits to ensure you have a healthy and comfortable working environment. Helping maintain a balanced and positive mental health across your employees.
After recently experiencing a heat wave here in the UK, and with the potential of this happening again at the end of August, the TUC, (Trade Union Congress) have advised the maximum temperature for a desk job, working environment is 30°C and 27 °C for manual work, so make sure your risk assessments are up to date, and your thermo checklists are in place.
If the office exceeds this temperature and your outside temperatures are above this to conduct manual jobs then it would be expected of the employer to send you home to work or make alternative arrangements to ensure your safety is priority.
Alternative arrangements could be:
- Rescheduling work for a cooler time.
- Shaded areas to be provided outside the office
- PPE breaks, regular rotations and or breaks to allow employees to step out of PPE safely and cool down.
- Educate your workers on noticing or seeing signs of heat related stress, or heat stroke/exhaustion.
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, states that a workplace should have adequate ventilation, brought from an outsource into the working environment. This can be by natural or mechanical means. As well as providing fresh and diluted air supplies, it should also remove excess heat, or in winter months provide heat, and also remove odours, dust, and fibres.
Whilst current research shows that ventilation will reduce the risk of COVID19, spreading with the support of PPE, space and now vaccinations. The ventilation remains important but there has been no evidence research produced yet to show that heat or cold environments breads it faster, but like many influenzas they spread more in cold season when coughing, and sneezing increase. So promoting personal hygiene methods, like hand washing, sanitising, using a tissue and binning it, is vitally important to help reduce any spread of infectious diseases, alongside the use of flexible or hybrid working.
Points of Interest
- The Heatwave in 2020 killed 892 people. (reported by the independent)
- One of the most common accidents in the workplace when there is a heatwave is dehydration.
- Work related injuries and accidents increase in the Summer, these include heat stress, and accidents of any source due to fatigue.
This mentality also applies to your HR, we can help you create an safe and engaging employee experience for your staff. For further information or guidance on managing and supporting employees in the workplace contact us directly.
With over 10 years HR generalist and management experience, Amanda has worked across a number of business sectors and understands the importance of a robust and practical HR processes.
She is passionate about sharing her experiences and coaching clients and their teams through the day to day successful people management, utilising her qualification as an experience Mental Health First Aider.