Are we required to keep the workplace a certain temperature?

 

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Not necessarily. There is no requirement for employers to maintain a certain workplace temperature under federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, nor are there specific OSHA standards for occupational heat exposure. However, under the General Duty Clause, section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that "is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees."

Employers can reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses to employees exposed to hot indoor environments such as factories, boiler rooms, commercial kitchens, laundries, food canneries, chemical plants, etc., by implementing engineering controls that make the work environment cooler, such as air conditioning and ventilation, and work practices such as instituting work/rest cycles, drinking water often and providing an opportunity for workers to build up a level of tolerance to working in the heat. See Occupational Heat Exposure.

Employees who work in traditional office environments have a lower risk of indoor heat exposure, and although there is no standard related to indoor office temperature, the OSHA technical manual recommends employers maintain workplace temperatures in the range of 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity control in the range of 20 to 60 percent. According to an OSHA interpretation letter, "office temperature and humidity conditions are generally a matter of human comfort rather than hazards that could cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA cannot cite the General Duty Clause for personal discomfort."

Indoor air temperature preferences vary by individual. While one worker may shiver and reach for a sweater during the summer with the thermostat set on 70 degrees, another worker may break a sweat. Finding a happy medium can often be difficult, but consider the bottom line: "Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance," according to a Cornell University study.1 Aside from productivity, office temperature can also have a negative effect on morale, and allowing employees some flexibility in regulating indoor temperature can increase job satisfaction.

 

1 Lang, S. (2004, Oct. 19). Study links warm offices to fewer typing errors and higher productivity. Cornell Chronicle. Retrieved from http://news.cornell.edu/stories/2004/10/warm-offices-linked-fewer-typing-errors-higher-productivity


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