The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Safe Office Temperatures

Graham Marshall - Thursday, May 05, 2011

I get asked from time to time to offer advice about office environmental conditions in relation to light, noise, temperature, humidity and such like.

In fact, in my experience over the years, I've noted that complaints about office heating and cooling are a common gripe.

Is it too hot or too cold?

Does the temperature vary too much throughout the day?

Are draughts a problem?

What about humidity levels and air movement?

Under the UK system of law which applies in places like Australia, NZ, Canada and Great Britain, there are general duties within the various applicable Laws to provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

For employers and those "with control of the workplace", this so called "duty of care" means they should be proactive when managing office environmental conditions, including temperature levels.

For employers, the duty of care also obliges them to monitor environmental conditions at workplaces under their control.

If necessary, the employer should seek expert assistance to monitor the environmental conditions on their behalf.

In order to meet their legal duties, employers should ensure that indoor office temperatures vary according to the outside temperature across the seasons.

Comcare, the Australian Federal OHS Agency, has produced a guide for buildings under Commonwealth control called Air Conditioning and Thermal Comfort in Australian Public Service Offices.

You will find the Comcare Guide by clicking here.

The Comcare Guide suggests that the comfort level in summer when people are wearing summer clothing is between 23 and 26 degrees Celsius.

Australian Standard AS1668.2 (The Use of Ventilation and Airconditioning in Buildings) also offers additional guidance.

General good practice in meeting the employers duty of care in relation to office temperature includes the following advice:

  • Ensure to monitor and regulate air temperature and humidity at comfortable levels;
  • Avoid locating workstations directly in front of or below air conditioning outlets;
  • Install deflectors on air vents to direct airflow away from people;
  • Control direct sunlight (radiant heat) with good building design (passive solar design) or use blinds, louvres or outdoor shade;
  • Minimize draughts and thermal differences between the head and the feet (thermal gradients);
  • Ensure adequate air flow to at least an applicable (in-country) Standard (e.g., to AS 1668.2); and
  • Monitor and regulate humidity levels according to staff comfort levels. 

 

If people in your office are concerned about the OHS impacts of office environmental conditions then they should approach management to request that the following things be checked:

  • Whether the heating and/or cooling system is working properly or needs maintenance, adjustment etc;
  • The temperature in various places within the building;
  • The amount of air flow within the office environment;  and 
  • The  level of humidity within the office.

 

In the event that the heating or cooling system breaks down management should provide free standing ventilation fans or temporary heaters as an interim measure until the system is fully restored. 

It maybe necessary to evacuate affected parts of the office when the working conditions become unacceptably uncomfortable.

There may also be a range of other workplace options including working from home as a short term measure.

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Anonymous commented on 08-Feb-2012 08:03 PM
hello

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