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Is Your Workplace an Ice Block or a Heater?

Maintaining office temperatures at a level which will satisfy all employees is a challenge faced by most employers at some point in time!

Office temperatures that are too hot or too cold are one of the most common complaints raised by employees in the workplace and can directly contribute to reduced productivity and decreased morale.

While achieving a consistent temperature which is agreed too by everyone within the workplace can be near on impossible, it is important to be aware of what are your obligations are if a staff member/members complain the office temperature is too cold or too hot

The layout and structure of many workplaces, particularly those which are open plan in nature or that have been renovated/altered can create variations in temperature. Even where the overall workplace temperature may sit within the ideal recommended range (commonly accepted to be between 21 degrees to 24 degrees), certain areas within the office may differ and fall outside of the recommended temperature (for example, where a person is seated directly under an air conditioning vent, they may be cooler than another employee).

The extent to which such temperature fluctuations need to be addressed by an employer will depend on the nature of the workplace and the level of risk. Work Health and Safety legislation provides that all employers have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that their employees are not exposed to extreme hot or cold conditions and that they are able to safely carry out their duties.

In order to determine whether your office temperature could present a potential safety risk, it is recommended that a risk assessment be undertaken. Such an assessment should take into account factors such as:

  • The source of the cold (or heat),
  • The nature of the work undertaken in the cold (or hot) area,
  • The amount of exposure to the cold (or heat),
  • The physical condition and capability of employees,
  • Risk mitigation options (such as the provision of PPC&E)

While obtaining a temperature setting which is agreeable to everyone in an office environment can be a challenge, employers should take steps, so far as is reasonably practicable, to ensure that their employees are comfortable. Determining what is reasonably practicable takes into account the level of potential risk, the availability of measures to eliminate or minimise the risk, and the costs associated with implementing risk control measures.

Irrespective of the level of identified risk, as an employer you can take steps such as:

  • Regulating air conditioning for temperature and humidity.
  • Considering workplace layout (such as avoiding placing workstations directly in front of or below air conditioning vents).
  • Control airflow and drafts (ie. By installing deflectors on air vents to direct airflow away from people).
  • Control direct sunlight (radiant heat) through installing blinds and window treatments.
  • Ensure workers are aware of how the air-conditioning is managed in your building and explain any roadblocks in the way of ensuring an even temperature.
  • Encouraged employees to wear adequate clothing to ensure their comfort.

As a means to ensure that employees are as comfortable as possible.

Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.

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