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Health and Safety Services

Workplace Temperatures

Each summer and winter, Birkbeck Health and Safety Services receives several enquiries about office temperatures such as - What is the maximum or minimum temperature allowed?   Accordingly, the brief guidance below may prove informative. 


The main piece of legislation dealing with temperatures in indoor workplaces is the 'Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992'.   Regulation 7 states:
During working hours the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.

What is a reasonable lower temperature?

 The Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) to the Regulations states that the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16 degrees Celcius except rooms which have to be open to the outside and some other exceptions.  The temperature should be measured close to workstations, at working height and away from windows.

What is a reasonable upper temperature?

The ACOP does not state an upper temperature.  But another HSE guide for employers states that an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13 and 30 Celcius with acceptable temperatures for sedentary activities being towards the higher end.

Birkbeck office temperatures

Birkbeck Estates Department tries to maintain office temperatures of at least 19/20 Celcius - though this can vary between different parts of an office depending on proximity to windows or air conditioning vents in ceilings.

Further HSE guidance

HSE guidance also suggests that in hot weather, where air conditioning is not installed:

  1. windows should be capable of being opened.

  2. fans can be provided to to move air around

  3. local cooling devices could be provided

  4. windows can be shaded with blinds or fitted with reflective film to reduce solar gain.

  5. cold water dispensers can be provided

  6. allowing flexible working hours

  7. allowing sufficient breaks to enable employees to get cold drinks

  8. relaxing dress codes to allow employees to wear lighter clothing.

Employers could of course arrange for employees to temporarily work elsewhere where the temperature is higher or lower as the case may be.

Relative Humidity

Temperature alone should not be the only determining factor for thermal comfort - humidity and air movement play a part.  Fans have been mentioned above.  In addition, where air conditioning systems are installed, relative humidity should be maintained in the range 40%-60%.  Low humidity can lead to sore eyes and throat, general lethargy and cause a build up of static electricity.

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Health & Safety Services, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Tel: 020 7631 6218, email: