I went Christmas shopping recently at a couple of indoor shopping centres. Amidst the plunging temperatures as seen all over the UK, I noticed that most of the shops were as cold inside as it was outside. Staff at the tills were visibly cold, some were even wearing gloves. After speaking to a few of them it was clear they were struggling with the cold and feeling pretty miserable.
While the current economic conditions and cost of energy are worrying, turning down the heating, or worse, turning off the heating is not in the best interests of the business or your employees.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require all employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace, and suggest a minimum temperature for indoors should normally be at least
- 16oC or,
- 13oC if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort
As an employer, you must decide what a reasonable temperature should be in your workplace by assessing the risk and acting on any findings by putting controls in place, including temporary or seasonal ones.
Managing cold weather in the workplace
In indoor workplaces you should ensure that you are providing that “reasonable” working temperature and where you cannot achieve that think about:
- Providing adequate heating, such as portable heaters, to ensure work areas are warm enough when they are occupied – portable heaters must be safe for use as they can present a significant fire hazard. Portable electrical heaters should be subject to visual inspection before use and be included in the portable appliance testing regime.
- Design processes that minimise exposure to cold areas and cold products
- Reduce draughts while still keeping adequate ventilation
- Provide insulating floor coverings or special footwear when workers have to stand for long periods on cold floors
- Provide appropriate protective clothing
You can also change work systems:
- Limit exposure by introducing systems such as flexible working patterns or job rotation
- Provide enough breaks to allow workers to get hot drinks or warm up in heated areas
Why is it important we manage cold weather at work?
Temperature affects our rate of work when we’re cold. We’re not just uncomfortable, we’re distracted. When our body temperature drops, we inevitably expend more energy to keep ourselves warm. As a result, leaving less brainpower for the tasks at hand. Concentration, inspiration and insight are resources that colder temperatures immediately deprive us of, leading to a very clear impact on our productivity.
Employee wellbeing can also be affected by working in cold temperatures leading to higher susceptibility to illness, especially in winter when colds and flu are circulating along with the impact on mental health. The CIPD estimates absence costs a company an average of around £554 – £557 per employee, per year depending on whether they are a manual or non-manual worker, and these costs can quickly start to stack up within larger workforces.
The direct costs of absence include:
- paying the salary of the absent employee
- overtime incurred by other employees covering for the absent employee
- loss of output incurred by the absent employee.
The indirect costs of absence include:
- the time taken for a replacement to learn the new role and become productive
- possible diminished services and product quality
- loss of business, continuity, and reputation
- recruiting temporary or replacement staff
- training and providing support to other staff
Before you turn the thermostat down, or off – think about the impact on your employees, the working environment, and your customers. Failing to do so may cost you more than keeping the heating on.
If you would like further Health & Safety support, please contact us through email@example.com or call 0141 221 2984. We also have plenty of FREE resources to help you and your business over at our FD People Hub.