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By Jackie Edwards

February 8, 2018 

The temperature in the workplace is a constant battle among employees, with many workers reaching for the air conditioning button as soon as Spring arrives and others sitting at their desks wearing their coats shivering all year round. The average temperature in the US during the Summer varies by State, with the highest being 81.1 degrees Fahrenheit in Louisiana and Texas. Whereas, Virginia has a cooler average of 73.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Employers across the country recognize the importance of maintaining health and safety practices in the workplace, but too often, temperature control is forgotten.

Getting the temperature right

Workers spend 90,000 hours of their lives at work throughout their lifetime and, worryingly, 70% of Americans confess to not liking their job. There are many factors which contribute to workplace dissatisfaction, including the hours worked, clashing with the boss and the overall atmosphere of the environment worked in, with temperature control falling into the latter category.

Getting the temperature right is important for employers as it provides the perfect environment for optimum employee productivity, something which all employers strive for from their workers. However, if the temperature is too high or too low, workers can easily be distracted by their discomfort and in seeking ways to warm up or cool down.

The dangers

The temperature in the workplace goes beyond having a detrimental effect on productivity and having a dissatisfied workforce. Employees working in extreme heat can suffer from a range of illnesses, which can impact their long term health, their overall well-being and contribute to a large number of sick days. Dehydration, fainting, heat stroke, exhaustion and even death are all risks employers impose on their staff by not maintaining an adequate temperature in the workplace. There are just as many dangers to working in the cold too. The cold can cause workers to suffer from frostbite, hypothermia, trench foot and death.

The law

All employers have a legal duty to maintain a safe working environment. Employers assume a duty of care to their employees and this includes ensuring they are comfortable in the workplace. Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) there is no specific regulation which specifies the minimum and maximum temperature an employee can work in. The OSHA manual does however provide temperature guidelines for employers.

What you can do

As an employer, the most responsible thing you can do is provide ways for your workers to stay warm or get cool, depending on their workplace. For workers likely to face cold working conditions, such as outside workers, ensure waterproof items of clothing and shoes are provided, as well as a place of shelter and that hot refreshments are available. In extreme heat, look to provide a shady, cool shelter, cold refreshments, breaks and air conditioning.

Maintaining the temperature in the workplace is a very important factor to consider when implementing and reviewing health and safety practices within your organization and getting it right is vital in keeping a positive work force and reducing temperature-related illnesses amongst your staff.