Guidance on working in cold weather

Guidance on working in cold weather Midlands Health and Safety Consultancy

As winter takes hold, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has refreshed its guidance to make it easier to find and understand advice on how to protect workers in low temperatures.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, the HSE says, employers must assess risks to workers including temperature and put controls in place to protect them and with the current severe cold weather forecasted to extend to the end of the week, our latest article looks at guidance on working in cold weather and how to reduce risk.

There’s no law for minimum or maximum working temperatures indoors, e.g when it’s too cold or too hot to work, however, guidance suggests a minimum of 16ºC or 13ºC if employees are doing physical work.

Legal aspect

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations require employers to provide a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace and this depends on the work activity and the environmental conditions. The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations require reasonable workplace temperatures for indoor areas of construction sites. Where the site is outdoors, you must provide protection from adverse weather and site rest facilities must also be maintained at an appropriate temperature.


Keeping warm is essential when workers have to work in the cold weather. The key is finding a balance of wearing enough layers to stay warm while still being able to maintain a good range of mobility so workers can perform their work. To help protect workers from the effects of cold weather when working outside and reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring, employers need to ensure that workers are provided with suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as identified within the risk assessment.

Take regular breaks

Try to take a 10-minute break to warm yourself up for every two hours you work outdoors. These breaks allow the body to warm up before you go back to work, which can relieve cold-related stresses on the body. The best place to take a break is in a warm, dry shelter where you can move around and get your blood flowing.

Slips and trips

Slip and trip accidents increase during the winter season for a number of reasons: there is less daylight, leaves fall onto paths and become wet and slippery and cold weather spells cause ice and snow to build up on paths. There are effective actions that you can take to reduce the risk of a slip or trip. Regardless of the size of your site, always ensure that regularly used walkways are promptly tackled.

When snow is tracked indoors, interior walking surfaces in entrances, reception areas, hallways, and stairwells can be dangerous. To keep employees safe, strategically place “wet floor” signs to slow people down as they enter the building and use floor mats to catch excess water.

Risk assessment

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a risk assessment is a legal requirement that involves identifying sensible measures to control hazards if you’re an employer, your work activity is mentioned in the regulations, or your work poses a risk to others. You should have already conducted a risk assessment to check the safety of the areas around your company building, but it’s wise to conduct an additional one during this spell of freezing temperatures.

For further advice and guidance on working in cold weather or any other health and safety requirements, please contact us here.

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