By: Simon B
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Safe Temperatures and Noise Levels
Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
Employers have an obligation under the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 to provide their workers with a “reasonable” temperature in which to work.
The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice advises keeping the temperature of indoor workrooms at least 16°C, or 13°C where the work involves severe physical effort, although it is up to the employer to determine what is a reasonable temperature given the circumstances. Workrooms must also contain sufficient space between staff. Local heating should be provided where a comfortable temperature cannot be maintained throughout each workroom, and thermal clothing and rest facilities should be available where they are needed. It must be ensured that any heating apparatus does not give off offensive or dangerous fumes.
For outdoor workplaces, the HSE urges employees to be mindful of the dangers of overexposure to the sun and recommends:
- providing staff with long-sleeved shirts and loose clothing and wide-brimmed hats
- allowing staff to take frequent breaks
- providing shade where work is taking place, or if not possible, breaks in the shade when possible
- scheduling work for cooler times of the day
The HSE recommends consulting with employees to establish a way of dealing with high temperatures.
Heat risk assessment
The management of any company should show a commitment to maintaining a temperature in the workplace that is conducive to productivity and has the well-being of employees in mind.
If your employees complain of discomfort due to the temperature in their working area, then you should take action.
- Staff may need to be retrained in order for them to better adapt their work activities to the conditions they are working in.
- Temperatures may need to be monitored or recorded.
- Certain employees may require health surveillance.
- You may need to undertake regular risk assessments, and working habits may need to be periodically reviewed.
If staff are too hot
In warm conditions there are several steps which the HSE advises can be taken if employees are in discomfort.
Basic steps you should take are providing air conditioning or fans and ensuring that windows can be opened. You could also consider placing insulating materials around hot plant and pipes.
To further limit the impact of the heat on your employees, you could use blinds or place the reflective film on your windows. You can also try to position your employees so that they are out of the glare of direct sunlight.
You can also provide cold water dispensers and allow your employees sufficient breaks to use them, as well as relaxing your dress code.
If staff are too cold
To prevent staff from feeling too cold, the HSE advises that you should install adequate heating, and use portable heaters if necessary.
Further steps that could be taken are to minimise exposure to cold areas and products. You could also provide protective clothing for particularly cold areas and provide footwear for cold floors.
You should also provide sufficient breaks in order for employees to warm up, for example by having a warm drink.
The HSE recommends flexible working patterns or job rotation as effective ways of reducing exposure to both hot and cold conditions.
Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
These regulations are in place to protect workers so that their hearing is not harmed by the conditions in which they work.
If the daily or weekly average exposure to noise within a workplace is at a level of 85 decibels (dB) or more, employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones for their employees. At 80 dB employers must perform a risk assessment and provide employees with information and training.
There are also absolute limits on noise levels which must not be exceeded. These are a daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB and a peak of 140 dB.
Should I be worried about the noise levels in my workplace?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that employers should consider the possible risks that their employees are exposed to if:
- there is intrusive noise for most of the day
- employees have to raise their voices to carry out a normal conversation when two metres apart for at least some of the day
- employees use noisy power tools or machinery for at least half an hour a day
- the company lies within a noisy industry such as construction or demolition
- there are frequent loud noises due to impacts (such as hammering) or explosive sounds, e.g. from detonators or guns
Noise risk assessments
If any of the above points apply to your business, you should carry out a risk assessment to ensure that your employees are sufficiently protected.
This risk assessment should identify what risks exist and who is exposed to them, and consider whether noise measures or hearing protection are needed to comply with the law. You should also identify any employees who are at particular risk and whether they need to be provided with health surveillance.