Workplace Air Conditioning
A new survey by the Office of National Statistics - www.statistics.gov.uk
Neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis, conducted a unique experiment into workers productivity in overheated offices, the heat causes concentration to falter, the number of mistakes we make multiply and our problem solving ability nosedives.
"If we are too hot, our metabolic rate decreases, causing us to slow down mentally and physically. It is remarkable how little time it takes brains to go into meltdown when the temperature is increased," he said. What are your workers’ rights if it gets too hot this summer?
The British Safety Council concludes that when people experience temperatures in excess of 24C the propensity for accidents increases and work productivity diminishes.
It is important for employers to maintain staff productivity by providing solutions to overheating in the office either by commissioning installations of air conditioning systems or at least portable air conditioning when the heat becomes unbearable. Ecoair has a wide range of air conditioning, some requiring no technical installations at all. View EcoAir’s range of Portable Air Conditioning and Air Conditioning Installation Packages.
Employers must ensure that during working hours, the temperature inside buildings (including offices) is "reasonable". Under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, there is only a minimum temperature stipulated, which is 16 degrees Celsius after the first hour of working, unless the work involves strenuous physical exertion.
Whilst there is no maximum temperature ceiling legislated for, the British Safety Council cite research which concludes that when people experience temperatures in excess of 24 degrees Celsius the propensity for accidents increases and work productivity diminishes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that the maximum air temperature should be 25 degrees Celsius. Safety Reps’ can use these figures and evidence to negotiate agreements that improve upon the minimum requirements of the law.
The test of what constitutes a "reasonable" temperature is inherently subjective; it would be fair to say that if the majority of the workforce consider they are too hot or too cold for most of the working day, then the temperature is unreasonable.
There exists no legal right to vacate the workplace as a result of extremes of heat and cold, unless there is "serious, imminent and unavoidable danger" (Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1992). But there is no reason why workplace reps should not negotiate a joint agreement on temperature, which sets out what will happen when the minimum and maximum levels are not maintained.
Some suggested measures to achieve satisfactory working temperatures include:
* Insulating pipes
* Providing air cooling plant
* Shading windows and siting desks away from radiators and other hot spots