Cold at the workplace: when does the boss have to react??

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If the employer does not heat sufficiently, the question arises for the employee whether he is entitled to maintain certain minimum temperatures at the workplace, and what rights he has if the employer does not heat properly. A "cool head" and the works council can help here.

Are there legal regulations about minimum temperatures at the workplace?

In accordance with his duty of care under his employment contract, the employer must ensure that employees are able to work in conditions appropriate to their health. In general, the Workplace Ordinance stipulates that there must be "a room temperature that is conducive to health" in work rooms during working hours. These requirements are specified in the technical rules for workplaces. Different minimum temperatures are specified there for different work areas. In this context, it is also important which work is to be carried out. The following applies: the more severe, the lower the minimum temperature.

What are the minimum temperatures for working rooms?

According to the technical rules for workplaces, different work spaces are subject to different Minimum temperatures from 12 to 20 °C, depending on how hard the work is physically that is done in these rooms. Light work here is light hand/arm work while sitting quietly or. Standing combined with occasional walking. Medium-heavy is medium-heavy hand/arm or leg work while sitting, walking or standing. Heavy hand/arm, leg and trunk work while walking or standing is classified as difficult.

In detail, the following minimum temperatures apply:

  • 20 °C for sedentary light work with occasional walking (z. B. office work),
  • 19 °C for light standing or walking or moderately heavy sedentary activities (z. B. work at the workbench),
  • 17 °C for moderate standing or walking activities (z. B. assembly work),
  • 12 °C for heavy standing or walking activities (e.g., for the purpose of work, for the purpose of work on the job). B. carrying and lifting loads).

In break, stand-by, sanitary, canteen and first aid rooms, an air temperature of at least 21 °C must prevail during the period of use; in toilet rooms, the air temperature may be briefly lowered by ventilation processes triggered by the users. In stationary toilet facilities set up for employees when working outdoors or for workplaces used occasionally, it must be possible to achieve an air temperature of 21 °C during the period of use. In washrooms where showers are installed, the air temperature should be at least 24 °C during the period of use.

May the employee stop work if room temperatures are too low?

The employee has no automatic right to refuse to work or to reduce working hours when room temperatures are too low. He also cannot continue to work at home without the employer’s consent (z. B. in a home office). However, he may require the employer to ensure his protection by appropriate measures (z. B. by radiant heating, heating mats or organizational measures such as warm-up periods). If the heating is broken, the employer must immediately commission a craftsman to repair it.

Only in absolutely exceptional cases is the employee entitled to withhold his work performance and stop working. This is the case when the employer does not take measures to protect against the low temperatures and the continued work under these circumstances represents a concrete health risk for the employee.

The employee must provide evidence of health impairments in the form of a medical certificate.

Attention: The employee must prove that the high temperatures in the work area are detrimental to his or her health. If the employee stops work for this reason and is unable to provide the relevant evidence, he or she risks a warning, and possibly even termination without notice.

What are the duties of the works council?

The works council Has to check whether the legal conditions for the workplace are observed. In this context, it may request the employer to provide the necessary information. Support is also available from occupational safety experts.

If the minimum temperatures specified for the workplace are not reached, the works council must demand the necessary measures to protect the employee. The works council must have a say in the selection of measures.

What special regulations apply to pregnant and breastfeeding employees??

Pregnant women and nursing mothers enjoy special legal protection. Under the Maternity Protection Act, they may not be employed in work where the cold may cause health problems. If the workplace is not designed to meet health requirements, pregnant women and nursing mothers can request employment in another location or even time off as part of a ban on employment. The fact that the employee’s health is actually affected by the low temperature must be proven in a medical certificate.

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