Created on: 14 Jul 2023

Working in unsatisfactory thermal conditions without adequate supplies of fresh air can pose problems.

Unsatisfactory building design and heating systems may mean workplaces are too hot in summer or too cold in winter. Regulation 6 of the Workplace Regs states that in enclosed workplaces, employers must provide "effective and suitable" ventilation to supply a "sufficient quantity" of fresh or purified air.

The ACoP says that ventilation systems should not cause uncomfortable draughts. Air inlets should not be situated near contaminated air, for example from vehicle exhausts or flues. Recycled air systems should be filtered and mixed with fresh air.

Workplaces where hazardous substances are used will need a higher standard of ventilation. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations and the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations include more specific requirements.

Work in “confined spaces” such as sewers, tanks or pits also need special precautions, the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 apply in these situations.

Fresh air standards are given in HSE Guidance and recommends that the quantity of fresh air supplied should never fall below 5 litres per second per person.

The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) suggests fresh air supply rates of 36 litres per second per person for heavily contaminated workplaces.

Checklist: Temperature and Ventilation Possible Action

  1. One way of identifying a problem is by talking to your members or doing a survey. This may also build their support for solving the problem. You could ask them:
    • do they find it too hot or too cold at work?
    • does this happen at a particular time of year?
    • do they notice any draughts at work?
    • are there any problems with heating/cooling systems?
  2. Make an inspection of temperatures and heating and cooling systems. Most workplaces tend to be too cold for comfortable working, particularly in winter. What is the average temperature in your workplace and is there a thermometer available to measure it?
  3. Is the atmosphere hazy, oily, fume or dust-laden? If so:
    • are there sufficient air movements by general ventilation (windows, doors, vents)?
    • is any provision made for mechanical ventilation by fans, exhaust ventilation or other cleaning equipment?
    • are there maintenance and cleaning programmes for ventilation equipment?
  4. Draw up a list of the main problems with heating and ventilation, hot work and cold work.
  5. Prepare a report for management. Set out your aims and a plan of action on temperature and ventilation problems.