Q.Is there a legal minimum temperature for working in a warehouse?
(L Burns, 9 February 2009)
A.An employer has a duty of care towards their employees and the responsibility of making sure that the workplace is a comfortable environment to be in. Every employer must comply by health and safety regulations that are in place to protect employees and make sure that their working conditions are in good order. They cannot expect you to work in an environment that is unsafe or bad for your health.
The government’s health and safety regulations state that employers must ensure that the temperature in the workplace is ‘reasonable’ at all times. In the accompanying code of practice it suggests that the temperature should be a minimum of 16 degrees Celsius unless the work involves a lot of physical activity where this can drop to 13 degrees Celsius. However, the guidelines take into account the varying nature of the ‘workplace’ and give some leeway for the fact that this may not always be possible due to the nature of the working environment. Therefore there is technically no single legal temperature that can be applied.
If you are working in a warehouse then it is likely that you will be doing a lot of physical activity and the guideline to use would be the 13 degrees Celsius. If you feel that the temperature in the warehouse is unacceptable then you have every right to ask for it to be raised. Use the guidelines above as your basis and find out what the current temperature is. If it is significantly less than 13 degrees Celsius then you will have a strong case for having it increased.
Your health and safety is paramount and you can refuse to do any work, without any action being taken against you, if you believe that your working conditions infringe your rights. Your safety executive or trade union representative should be able to help you make an official complaint to get the situation resolved. If this doesn’t do anything then you may want to think about reporting your employer to the health and safety executive who regulate working conditions and make sure that employees are being looked after fairly.