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When The Air Temperature Drops Accidents Can Rise!

17th December 2013
Freezing winter temperatures are back with us again and as the thermometer plunges, so too does the ability of many men and women to be able to carry out their normal duties at many offices, work units, depots and warehouses around the UK.

Employees face being adversely affected and susceptible to the hazards of trying to work in environments where heating is obviously insufficient. Inability to properly function because of a lack of ‘thermal comfort’ can often give rise to accidents claims resulting from a host of minor accidents or even physical problems serious enough to lead to a claim for injury compensation.

Thermal comfort is defined in British Standard BS EN ISO 7730 as ‘that condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment.’ This may be better understood as “a person’s psychological state of mind” as to “whether someone is feeling too hot or too cold”, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

While there is no legal minimum temperature set for conditions of employee working, the HSE state that the workroom temperatures should normally be at least 16°C or 13°C where work is mostly of a physical nature.

However, Regulation 7 of The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 makes provision for workers who do suffer injury or illness as a result of an employer failing to ensure ‘comfortable and reasonable temperatures’, and be able to claim accident compensation. Exceptions could include specific occupational workplaces such as steel production, foundries, bakeries, cold stores, etc

The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) also states that "The temperature in workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing.”

The risk of an accident is more likely to take place if the ability to concentrate, make decisions and/or perform manual tasks deteriorates as a result of cold temperatures. In many instances, hazardous short cuts are taken simply to quickly complete the task and leave a cold environment.

Some employees can be more affected by a drop in temperature than others, especially if they have respiratory condition (such as asthma) or poor blood circulation or even, an industrial disease such as Vibration White Finger.

Service maintenance and checking of work place heating systems, such as radiators and hot air blowers, for example, should always be carried out during the summer months in preparation for the autumn / winter period.