The Importance of Thermal Comfort

What is Thermal Comfort and Why is it Important?

Most people are aware that employers have a duty of care towards their employees, but how many people realise this extends to creating a comfortable indoor environment, without draughts and hot or cold spots? BS EN 7730 and the Workplace Regulations both emphasise the importance of keeping staff comfortable; in this article we explore what this means in relation to your working environment.

Firstly we need to deal with the rather dry subject of regulations. Don’t worry I’ll keep this brief as there are two key points you need to keep in mind:

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Approved Code of Practice (ACOP), point 50:

Workers should not be exposed to uncomfortable draughts. In the case of mechanical ventilation systems, it may be necessary to control the direction or velocity of air flow.

Workstations should be re-sited or screened if necessary.

BS EN 7730:

Thermal comfort is defined in British Standard BS EN ISO 7730 as:‘That condition of mind which expresses satisfaction with the thermal environment.’

Thermal comfort is not about measuring room temperature, although it does relate to whether a person feels hot or cold. Thermal comfort takes in a range of environmental and personal aspects and is worked out by the number of employees complaining of being uncomfortably hot or cold.

Why is BS EN 7730 the ACOP so important?

If you are in a draught, you are cold, you are unproductive and you are unhappy. In a nutshell, thermal comfort keeps people happy. It keeps workers comfortable and most importantly for business, it keeps staff productive. It also keeps workplaces safe.The HSE website states:

  • People working in uncomfortably hot and cold environments are more likely to behave unsafely because their ability to make decisions and/or perform manual tasks deteriorates. For example;
  • people may take short cuts to get out of cold environments,
  • or workers might not wear personal protective equipment (PPE) properly in hot environments, increasing the risks,
  • or the workers’ ability to concentrate on a given task may start to drop off and increases the risk of errors occurring.

As an employer you should be aware of these risks and make sure the underlying reasons for these behaviours are understood and taken into account. Addressing the underlying reasons for these behaviours is also likely to improve morale and productivity as well as improving health and safety.

Although the above safety aspects may seemingly apply in the construction industry or a more industrial environment, a walk around most offices in the UK will reveal that thermal comfort makes a big difference to productivity: Thermal comfort with traditional heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems is hard to achieve. The staff member sitting underneath the air conditioning unit in summer will invariably have the layers piled on, while shivering in the cold blast of icy air, while those on the periphery of the air con unit sweat in the heat. In winter, have a count up of the number of desk heaters in use where staff are complaining of cold feet, or staff members wearing scarves while sitting at their desks.

The HSE states 80% of occupants is a reasonable limit for the minimum number of people who should be thermally comfortable in an environment. However this means that 20% of the workforce is in discomfort and not working to their full ability. Remember then that most buildings won’t even hit this 80% comfort level.

So now you know why thermal comfort is important, what can you do about it? Contact Airius to find out the award winning solution they provide and how it could benefit you and a member of the team would be pleased to discuss your application.

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