As the cold weather sets in across Great Britain, employers are being reminded of their duty to protect the health and safety of their staff. With icy conditions expected in many parts of the country, risks like slips and falls may rise in outdoor workplaces. Indoors, it’s vital that employers provide a reasonable working temperature.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance calling on employers to take a sensible approach and make accommodations for workers during cold snaps. The ability to make sound decisions tends to deteriorate when people work in uncomfortable temperatures, making them more prone to unsafe behavior.
Legal Obligations for Employers
All employers have a legal obligation under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 to provide a “reasonable” temperature in indoor work areas. The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice recommends this should be at least 16°C for most jobs, or 13°C for work involving rigorous physical effort.
Maintaining good workplace temperatures is not only the lawful thing to do, but also makes good business sense. Research shows that worker productivity, morale and health tend to be better when indoor temperatures are kept at a comfortable level.
Preparing for Colder Conditions
As well as monitoring indoor workplace temperatures, employers should take steps to minimise risks from cold outdoor work environments. This may include providing appropriate personal protective equipment, scheduling frequent breaks, and adjusting working hours.
If travel conditions seem hazardous, employers could consider offering remote working options until it is safe for staff to travel. No job is so important that a worker should risk their health and safety getting to or from the workplace.
By taking a sensible and caring approach to managing cold workplace risks now, employers will reap rewards in staff morale, safety and productivity this winter season.