- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 06 Mar 2017
UK law does not prescribe maximum or minimum temperatures. Temperatures in the workplace are governed by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, but this simply obliges employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature.
The approved code of practice ‘Workplace health, safety and welfare’ provides some guidance, suggesting a minimum temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, or 13 degrees Celsius if work involves severe physical effort. There are no guidelines for maximum temperatures, although Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance used to suggest 30 degrees Celsius might be a maximum depending on activities.
However, there may be particular risks from exposure to high or low temperatures. Where thermal conditions mean the measures people’s bodies uses to regulate internal temperature begin to fail, this can be described as ‘thermal stress’, such as heat stress and cold stress. If there is a risk of thermal stress, this must be assessed and managed. In the case of cold stress, this might include conditions that are below 12 degrees Celsius.
- Step 1 : Identify the hazards.
- Step 2 : Decide who is at risk.
- Step 3 : Evaluate the risks.
- Step 4 : Record findings.
- Step 5 : Review assessment
Cold conditions may be a normal part of a person’s day, for which they are well prepared, or may be an unusual situation resulting from extreme weather or from unforeseen circumstances such as failure of heating equipment. Cold stress can be relatively mild, or it can be extremely serious resulting in hypothermia, frostbite, or even death. Some people may be more susceptible to cold stress than others.
Symptoms might include:
- Shivering (or stopping shivering).
- Tiredness, poor coordination or confusion which can lead to accidents.
- Discolouration of the skin or itching.
- Dilated pupils.
- Reduced blood flow, numbness, swelling, tingling or cramps.
- Slowed pulse or breathing.
- Loss of consciousness.
Avoidance measures might include:
- Portable heaters.
- Minimising exposure to cold areas or cold products.
- Providing breaks.
- Reducing cold draughts.
- Insulating floors.
- Providing personal protective equipment such as protective clothing, special footwear and so on.
- BS EN 511: Specification for protective gloves against cold.
- ISO 13732-3 Ergonomics of the thermal environment - Touching of cold surfaces Part 3. Ergonomics data and guidance for application.
- BS 7915: 1998 Ergonomics of the thermal environment : Guide to design and evaluation of working practices for cold indoor environments.
- ISO 11079 Evaluation of cold environments - Determination of required clothing insulation (IREQ)
- ISO 15743 Ergonomics of the thermal environment - cold workplaces - risk assessment and management
Ref HSE: Cold stress.
HSE suggest that additional standards may need to be referred to depending on operational circumstances.
NB In November 2016, construction union UCATT wrote to major house builders proposing extreme weather health and safety guidelines. UCATT General Secretary Brian Rye said, “It’s a complete indictment of an industry that has temperature guidelines to safeguard materials but none whatsoever for the workers. This must now change. We have written to the NHBC to ask them to inject some humanity into the industry and provide clear temperature and extreme weather guidelines for constructors to apply to workers."
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Dry bulb temperature.
- Globe temperature.
- Health and Safety.
- Health and safety Executive.
- Heat stress.
- How to work safely on a construction site in winter.
- Method statement.
- Personal protective equipment.
- Relative humidity.
- Thermal comfort.
- Wet bulb globe temperature.
- Wet bulb temperature.
 External references
Featured articles and news
Whole-life costs consider all costs associated with the life of a building, from inception to disposal. Find out more here.
Reports emerge of injuries caused by Apple employees colliding with the campus' glazed walls.
The winners of NIC's ideas competition on transforming the Cambridge to Oxford arc discuss their concept.
Create new habitats and improve air quality and wellbeing.
New report provides 12 key actions which could close the structural talent gap in the construction industry.
These can be used to find out whether a proposed development is likely to be approved. Read more here.
Studying a built environment degree? Check out our helpful student resources section.
New BRE research paper explores how blockchain technology can benefit the built environment industry.
Timber is a natural carbon sink, but it must not end up in landfill at the end of its useful life.
BSRIA has collaborated with the Department of Health on research into air permeability in isolation rooms.