The office environment in hot weather

05 Jul 2018

The UK is experiencing an unusually sustained period of hot weather. Whilst some may relish the heat many others find that it is too hot for comfort. However, at present, there is no legal maximum temperature. The Health and Safety Executive and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) recommend that temperatures in offices are maintained at levels between 21 and 23 degrees Celsius throughout the year.

Although there is there is no maximum temperature, Workplace Health regulations state that the temperature inside workplace buildings has to be reasonable.  The code of practice attached to these regulations state that all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature.  .

This is usually achievable when the office environment has air conditioning or other mechanical cooling systems.  However, PCS H&S reps have reported that their office doesn’t have air conditioning or the mechanism has broken down and that many problems are being encountered when trying to get work orders actioned and cleared.

DWP guidance states: The purpose of effective building management is to ensure that temperatures are maintained at a level that provides occupants with comfortable working conditions (i.e. neither too hot or too cold and with appropriate levels of natural ventilation and/or mechanical ventilation).

Managers are ultimately responsible for ensuring staff work in a comfortable working environment. However, everyone has their own threshold of thermal comfort and if they are uncomfortable they can contact the service provider directly for assistance. Individuals should ensure they are wearing suitable indoor clothing that meets the Departmental dress codes (subject to any local relaxations due to temperature extremes). Whilst complying with the dress codes individuals should choose clothing appropriate to the season and that meets their expected normal thermal comfort needs.

With reports - in some offices - of temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, members are finding the environment too hot for comfort even allowing for relaxation of dress codes, extra breaks and cold drinks. PCS also notes many members are reporting, fatigue, dehydration, migraines headaches and service users feeling light-headed in the office.

Advice

The PCS website gives advice on preventing and alleviating the worst effects.

Managers are duty bound to ensure a comfortable working environment. If your office does not have working Air Conditioning and there is no completion date for either installation or for it to be fixed, Site Managers could request portable ventilation units by raising a work order via Sodexo.

PCS is aware of the problems site managers are experiencing with outstanding work orders and the DWP has offered a clear escalation route where the Service Level Agreement is not being met.

If you are too hot and you don’t believe everything is being done to improve the situation you can complete a DSE stating the temperature is too hot.  You can complete an accident form if the temperature is having a detrimental effect on your health.

If the work order to fix air conditioning or to order fans is taking too long use the escalation process on the intranet.  If you are checking on the status of a work order let the call centre know it’s the same incident and check that the safety box has been ticked.  If not sorted in the set timescales make a complaint in line with the process which is linked below.

The escalation procedure

Members can also contact H&S reps for further advice.

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