Cold weather working: Helping staff stay safe and warm

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace. This depends on the work activity and the environmental conditions. The minimum temperature in an indoor workplace should normally be at least:
• 16°C; or
• 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations require reasonable workplace temperatures for indoor areas of construction sites.  Where the workplace is outdoors, you must provide protection from adverse weather. Welfare facilities must also be maintained at an appropriate temperature.

Assessing the risks
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, employers must assess the risks to workers and put controls in place to protect them. Temperature in the workplace is one of the risks you should assess, whether the work is being done indoors or outdoors. You should consult with workers or their representatives on the best ways to cope with the cold.

Managing the risk (indoors)
• Provide adequate workplace heating, such as portable heaters, to ensure work areas are warm enough when they are occupied, ensuring heating systems are safe and do not give off harmful fumes;
• 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 lengthy periods on cold floors;
• Provide appropriate protective clothing for cold environments;
• 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.

Managing the risk (outdoors)
• Ensure the protective clothing issued is appropriate;
• Provide mobile facilities for warming up, and soup or hot drinks;
• Introduce more frequent rest breaks;
• Consider delaying the work until warmer times of the year without compromising on safety;
• Make sure workers can recognise the early symptoms of cold stress, such as a cough or body aches.

For assistance reviewing your risk assessments for working in cold temperatures contact an advisor at Cope Safety Management Limited.