The rules on office temperature – and how smart sensors can help you comply with them
There are few issues that divide the occupants of an office more than its temperature.
As the mercury rises outside, so do the number of arguments about the air-conditioning, with someone always too hot or too cold. High temperatures can also have an impact on productivity and motivation.
Keeping everyone happy is tricky, but there are things you can do to ensure you’re getting it right.
Smart sensor technology, connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) can help you see accurate, real-time, data from across your estate at the touch of a button, enabling changes to be made quickly – and improving energy efficiency.
This article looks at the legal requirements for office temperature in the UK and how using smart technology could help keep your workspaces comfortable all summer long.
What is the maximum temperature for an office?
There is no legal maximum office temperature in the UK.
Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that workplaces should aim to be no cooler than 16C, or 13C if much of the work involves “rigorous effort”, but there is no guidance for top temperature. This is due to the very high temperatures that can be found in workplaces such as kitchens and foundries, where it would not be reasonable, or possible, to expect them to be cool.
The HSE website also states that ‘thermal comfort’ is about more than just the ambient temperature in the room and that employers should also look at other factors including humidity, radiant temperature from any equipment in the room and air velocity.
You can download a useful thermal comfort checklist from the HSE website that can help you to decide what action you need to take.
How hot does an office have to be before an employee can complain?
Whilst there is no specific temperature set out in law, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in any workplace must be “reasonable”. This is open to interpretation but if significant numbers of staff are complaining about the temperature it is the duty of an employer to look at rectifying the problem.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have called for regulations to be changed so that people can stop working if their office reaches a maximum temperature of 30C, and advised that employers should aim to keep workplace temperatures lower than 24C.
How can smart technology help with workplace temperature control?
Most workplaces will have some kind of air-conditioning system in place to help keep temperatures under control, but often these operate in isolation, with individual users often able to turn temperature controls up and down multiple times throughout the day.
Smart technology enables a more efficient approach to office comfort.
Using individual sensors to monitor not just temperature but the other important indicators defined by the HSE – like humidity and CO2 levels – means facilities managers can see real-time information from across their entire estate and make instant changes accordingly.
Smart sensors are small devices that can be attached to walls, ceilings, doors, windows or machines. They are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and send information on a range of climate indicators directly to cloud-based systems like IBM Watson or Microsoft Azure, giving an instant overview of the situation and enabling you to see areas that are too hot or too cool or that have high humidity levels.
Using these sensors can help to not only control things like air conditioning, but also monitor which times of the day areas are becoming too hot, enabling simple steps to be taken like keeping blinds closed in the morning or moving desks away from warmer areas of the workspace.
Sensors like CT clamps – which affix to cables and measure the AC current flowing through them – can also be useful to help spot issues like overheating machinery or faulty equipment,, which can all contribute to increasing the temperature of a workspace.
Whichever sensors you choose you will benefit from instant, accurate data, which means changes can be made quickly, reducing the likelihood of staff suffering adverse effects from heat, and increasing their comfort and satisfaction in the workplace.
They can also have the added bonus of helping to make significant reductions in the amount of energy used. Click here to see how Pressac helped Cavendish Engineers reduce their client’s use of air handling by 42%.