Often at this time of year quiet bickering breaks out in offices over the thermostat and, when the heating fails, hopeful speculation that everyone might be able to work from home. Unfortunately, there is no such prospect for those with jobs that require outdoor working, such as construction workers. As temperatures fall, such workers may well consider their rights in respect workplace temperatures. While it may be disappointing, and contrary to popular belief, there is in fact no legal minimum temperature for a work place, inside or out.
The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 require contractors (or domestic clients who have control over the way in which construction work is carried out) to take sufficient steps to ensure that during working hours, the temperature on an indoor construction site is reasonable – though what is reasonable will depend upon the workplace/site in question. Where the construction site is outdoors, the obligation is to ensure the health and safety of persons and, in doing so, to have regard to adverse weather conditions, the purpose for which the site is used, and any protective clothing or work equipment provided for the use of any person at work on the site.
Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive gives examples of how these obligations might be met including ensuring that workers have adequate personal protective equipment, providing access to hot water and allowing regular rest/warm-up breaks. Further, workers should be made aware of indicators of thermal stresses, whether hot or cold. In all cases, an employer should perform a risk assessment to determine any risks to the health and safety of employees or those affected by works undertaken, a step required under Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and not limited to construction sites.
While workers on cold sites are not entitled to simply walk out in adverse conditions, a contractor is well advised to make sure that its employees are not left out in the cold.
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