After an icy start to the New Year we thought it timely to take a look at employers' obligations in relation to temperatures in the workplace.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 ("the 2007 Regulations") which were introduced pursuant to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 ("the 2005 Act"), deal with the issue of temperatures in the workplace.
Serious consequences may arise for those employers who disregard the provisions of the 2007 Regulations.
Employers who are in breach of the 2007 Regulations commit an offence under the 2005 Act, and may be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €3,000 and/or to six months imprisonment. Alternatively, if convicted on indictment, an employer may be liable to a fine not exceeding €3,000,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
Minimum temperature in the workplace
Regulation 7 of the 2007 Regulations contains important provisions on minimum temperatures for indoor sedentary work. It provides that an employer must ensure that during working hours, the temperature in rooms containing workstations is appropriate for human beings, having regard to the working methods being used and the physical demands on the employees. In relation to sedentary office work, an employer must ensure that a minimum temperature of 17.5°C, so far as is reasonably practicable, is achieved and maintained at every workstation after the first hour's work. For other sedentary work, an employer must ensure that at every workstation where a substantial proportion of the work is done sitting and does not involve serious physical effort, a minimum temperature of 16°C is, so far as is reasonably practicable, achieved and maintained after the first hour's work. Temperature in rest areas, sanitary facilities, canteens and first-aid rooms must be appropriate to the particular purpose of such areas. Workers are entitled to have some means readily available to them to measure the temperature in any workplace inside a building. In practice, this means that if an employee wants to measure the temperature there ought to be a thermometer readily available.
The Health and Safety Authority Guide to the 2007 Regulations ("the HSA Guide") states that in cases where it is difficult to maintain an adequate overall temperature, it may be necessary to provide extra heating, protective clothing or cooling at individual workstations. In the extremely cold weather conditions...