What are the Legal Requirements for Office Heating Systems?
The climate within a workplace plays a crucial role in the comfort and therefore the productivity of those who are working in it. Maintaining a suitable temperature in your workplace can be difficult, but once you find the perfect level, you and your employees will see the benefits. However, it’s important to know there is legislation surrounding the usage of heating systems in workplaces that must be adhered to, in order to avoid any ramifications.
Requirements for office heating & temperature
The law states that employers in the United Kingdom are required to ensure all enclosed workplaces are appropriately ventilated. Having sufficient ventilation helps create a healthy working environment – failure to provide said ventilation can result in a number of issues for staff, including eye irritation, headaches and tiredness.
The minimum safe working temperatures, as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are 13 and 16 degrees celsius. 13 degrees applies to workplaces where there is physical activity, such as a warehouse, and the 16 degree minimum is for contrasting environments, like an office.
Despite rules regarding the minimum temperatures, there is actually no legislation governing the maximum temperature for a workplace. The only regulation is that the maximum temperature should be ‘reasonable’, as stated in the Workplace Regulations 1992. It is important that these reasonable temperatures are maintained for a number of reasons. Excessively warm temperatures can result in dizziness, fainting and, for people who work at computers, stress and tiredness.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has recommended that the maximum safe temperatures for workplaces where there is physical activity is 27 degrees, and 30 degrees for environments where no physical activity takes place.
Requirements for office ventilation
The rules regarding appropriate office ventilation are set out by the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. These rules state that employers are legally obligated to ensure that a suitable amount of fresh or purified air enters the workplace in order to provide oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide.
Workplaces can be ventilated using air conditioning units or simply by opening windows, although the latter may not provide sufficient ventilation for larger spaces. For these larger premises, there are plenty of commercial air conditioning systems that will provide suitable ventilation for the entire premises.
The temperature of the air is one of the most useful indicators of the thermal comfort of the workplace and those within it. Using it on its own as a basis for judging the comfort of a room is not effective, however – instead it must be used in conjunction with a number of other factors. There are several factors that are commonly used:
- Air temperature: the temperature surrounding the body, usually measured in celsius
- Radiant temperature: the heat that radiates from a warm object. This has a significant impact on the overall temperature of a room
- Air velocity: The speed of air moving across the person. Stagnant air in an artificially heated room can cause the room to become stuffing. Moving air can cool the room down
- Humidity: water vapour in the air provides humidity. This is calculated by the amount of water vapour in the air compared to the maximum amount of water vapour that the air can hold at that temperature.
Other legal requirements
As well as the above legislation pertaining to ventilation and heating, there are a number of other requirements placed upon employers. Under The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999 require employers to control and prevent exposure to harmful substances via suitable measures, including ventilation.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (regulation 5) requires employers to keep all ventilation systems in good, working order, done so by carrying out regular checks, repairs and maintenance.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (regulations 21 and 25) insist that employers provide adequate ventilation to prevent toilet odours from lingering or infiltrating the workplace, as well as providing protection from cigarette smoke for non-smokers.
- The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 require employers to make information on their ventilation readily available to their staff.
In order to ensure that your employees are working in the best possible conditions, particularly if you have a larger premises, you need to ensure it’s properly ventilated. This means using a HVAC system that is regularly serviced and maintained to ensure it is suitable for use. Express Gas Solutions are proud to provide installation, servicing and repairs for HVAC systems in commercial premises – to find out more, get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to help.