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It Ain't Half Hot, Mum

30 January 2019

With summer temperatures rising over the last few weeks the question has been asked, how hot is too hot in your workplace?

This is a controversial topic, as everyone has their own personal comfort levels and feels the heat or cold differently. Professional and personal relationships have been put to the test in our office with snide comments being traded between the ‘Too Cold’ crew and ‘Too Hot’ faction.

The most recent research from Cornell University found that around 25⁰c was ideal for office workers with workers observed keyboarding 100% of the time with a 10% error rate. At 20⁰c the workers were only typing 54% of the time, with a higher error rate of 25%. This research surprised the researchers, and me as I prefer a colder office.

WorkSafe recommends office air-con units be set between 19-24 degrees in the summer and 18-22 degrees in the winter, which is a lower temperature than what the Cornell University research indicated.

Health and Safety at Work regulations provide that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that:-

  • there is suitable and sufficient ventilation to enable workers to carry out work without risks to health and safety; and
  • workers carrying out work in extremes of heat and cold are able to do so without risks to health and safety.

An employer has an obligation under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to identify the likelihood and degree of harm from working in extremes of hot and cold and to put in place measures to manage those risks. Obviously a roofer working outside in 35⁰ summer heat is going to have different risks to an office worker. Temperature is not an easy issue to solve, but if you are uncomfortable with the temperature in your workplace you are entitled to raise this with your employer.