High temperatures in schools – what is the school's duty?

Schools need to consider both their duty where they are employers, and also their duty of care to students under common law, which is 'to act as a reasonable parent would'.

Schools duty as employers

Guidance from the HSE on health and safety at work provides that:

"The law does not state a minimum or maximum temperature, but the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16°C, or 13°C if much of the work involves rigorous physical effort.

A meaningful maximum figure cannot be given due to the high temperatures found in, for example, glass works or foundries. In such environments it is still possible to work safely provided appropriate controls are present. Factors other than air temperature, i.e. radiant temperature, humidity and air velocity, become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 deals specifically with the temperature in indoor workplaces and states that, 'during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable.'"

So, what is reasonable? A school would need to have carried out an appropriate risk assessment – this would include recording and having evidence to demonstrate that any complaints had been considered.

Schools duty of care under common law to their students

Under the school's duty 'to act as a reasonable parent', again, the school would need to consider the risks – options may include:

  • relaxing uniform requirements
  • allowing students access to cold water during lesson time
  • making other suitable adjustments for PE lessons

For more information, please contact Russell Holland at russell.holland@michelmores.com