Excessive temperatures within the classroom are not only uncomfortable, but they can also be a health and safety hazard, because excessive heat can aggravate existing medical conditions.
If excessive temperatures are a problem in your workplace, there are a number of practical actions you can take to address the problem.
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 require that thermometers are provided within the workplace. (It is recommended that thermometers should be available at suitable locations in every part of the workplace to allow people to measure temperatures. In terms of location, thermometers should not be placed directly in front of windows or near heat sources.)
- If temperatures exceed sensible limits, then your employer should undertake a risk assessment and put in place measures to mitigate against the excessive heat, practical measures being the installation of blinds or the provision of fans or cooling devices. Temperatures can vary widely between similar rooms, due to factors including whether the room is north or south facing.
- Similarly, your employer should consider provided alternative classrooms or, in extreme situations, order the partial or total closure of the building.
- Adequate ventilation is also essential, especially in classrooms where dust may be generated such as technology rooms. Under the law, classrooms must be capable of being ventilated adequately and the Covid-19 pandemic reinforces the importance of adequate ventilation in preventing the transmission of airborne viruses.
- Employers should additionally ensure there is an easily accessible source of drinking water available for both staff and students.
- Employers should consider avoiding using classrooms that are particularly susceptible to high temperatures during the hottest hours of the day.
- Health surveillance or medical screening may be required for staff who have special requirements, such as pregnancy, certain illnesses and disabilities, and who may be taking medication or are working in known heat stress environments. Medical advice should be sought if necessary.
- Employers should be insulating hot machinery or pipes.
- Employee and student workstations should be sited away from places subject to radiant heat.
- In addition, the employer should consider relaxing any formal dress code.
There is no defined legal maximum temperature in the UK, however the World Health Organisation recommends a maximum temperature of 24°C. UK legislation requires working temperatures to be ‘reasonable’, and employers have a duty to take any action that is reasonably practicable to achieve this.