Hot and cold work environments

Work involving hot or cold temperatures can lead to a range of symptoms from physical discomfort through to life threatening conditions. Air temperatures that are too high or too low can contribute to fatigue and heat or cold related illnesses.

If it isn't possible to eliminate exposure to extreme heat or cold, then the risk of heat-related illness or hypothermia must be minimised, where reasonably practicable.

Heat-related illness can arise when:

  • working in high temperatures
  • exposed to high thermal radiation, eg working on a roof of a building
  • exposed to high levels of humidity, eg in a foundry, commercial kitchen or laundry.

The working in extreme heat fact sheet provides more information on how to prevent heat-related illness.

Hypothermia can arise when someone gets an abnormally low body temperature as a result of exposure to a cold environment.

Both heat-related illnesses and hypothermia can be fatal.

Business obligations

If you're a business or employer (or other PCBU), you must make sure so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers carrying out work in extreme heat or cold are able to do so without risk to their health and safety.

Consider personal and environmental factors when assessing the risk to workers from working in a very hot or cold environment.

Personal factors include:

  • the level and duration of physical activity
  • the amount and type of clothing worn
  • the duration of the exposure.

Environmental factors include:

  • air temperature
  • the level of humidity
  • the level of air movement and radiant heat.

The ideal temperature for sedentary work is between 20 and 26 degrees Celsius, depending on the time of year and clothing worn.

Further information

The managing the work environment and facilities code of practice provides more information on how to eliminate or minimise extreme exposure to heat or cold conditions.

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