Is there a minimum temperature for working outside?
In the cold winter months, employers should consider the effect of the lower temperatures on their employees and take appropriate action.
There are no specific Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’) guidelines for working below 13C. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees, and take action where necessary and where reasonably practicable.
When working outdoors the effects of the weather can potentially have a serious impact on an employee's health, if the risks have not been considered or properly managed. This impact may be immediate or it may occur over a long time period. When working outdoors the weather can have influence on an individual's effectiveness. In these circumstances some of the most effective ways of managing these environments are to introduce some simple controls for example:
- ensure the personal protective equipment issued is appropriate;
- provide mobile facilities for warming up, and encourage the drinking of warm fluids such as soup or hot drinks;
- introduce more frequent rest breaks;
- consider delaying the work – can it be undertaken at warmer times of the year without compromising on safety? and,
- educate workers about recognising the early symptoms of cold stress.
There are some British Standards for assessing cold stress in the workplace
- Protective gloves against cold
- Ergonomics of the thermal environment. Methods for the assessment of human responses to contact with surfaces
- Ergonomics of the thermal environment. Guide to design and evaluation of working practices in cold indoor environments
- Evaluation of cold environments. Determination of required clothing insulation (IREQ)
- Ergonomics of the thermal environment. Cold workplaces. Risk assessment and management.
Further information on the British Standards can be found through the HSE website: http://www.hse.gov.uk/temperature/coldstress.htm
An employer will likely be complying with the law, if they work in accordance with the British Standards or they can demonstrate compliance by alternative means. The standards listed above provide a framework around which an employer can develop a risk assessment and start managing the problem. An employer may need to refer to other HSE and British standards dependant on the work that is being undertaken.
Our advice would be that employees’ health and safety should always be paramount and if working outside make sure you take appropriate action.
If you have any questions or would like a consultation about any of the issues in this article, please call PCB Solicitors LLP’s Shrewsbury office on 01743 248148 and ask for Ryan Bickham, who would be able to assist