General Environmental Temperature Standard (T° F Max)
Many University buildings, due to lack of mechanical ventilation and/or air conditioning, can subject employees to elevated temperatures during the summer months. In addition to the general discomfort caused by the heat, high temperatures can cause a potential health hazard for some employees. A strict evaluation of what is "safe" or "unsafe" for heat exposures is impossible to ascertain because of the wide variability of both subjective and actual physical responses in individuals. This recommended standard is to be used as a tool for supervisory personnel who may want to refer to the professional opinion of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety on general area (office and laboratory) maximum temperatures and possible health effects.
This University recommendation uses only a dry bulb temperature as an indicator of potential health hazards. However, the determination of this dry bulb temperature has taken into account both humidity and air movement. In fact, this temperature is lower than the State of Minnesota guidelines for 80% relative humidity and minimum air movement. The rationale for the single variable for heat exposure (dry bulb temperature) is so that employees can easily evaluate their own heat exposure.
In buildings where the air conditioning unit has shut down some departments have chosen to start work earlier in the day and close offices during the late afternoon. The building heat load can also be reduced by closing the window blinds on hot days, turning off lights and shutting off electronic equipment.
It is recommended that when the temperature of the work environment reaches 88° F, serious consideration be given either to moving the employees to a cooler environment (temporarily or permanently) or to dismiss employees until such time that the temperature has lowered significantly. This temperature is an indicator that the excessive heat could affect the health or safety of employees. The responsibility for the interpretation of this standard rests with supervisory personnel. This standard does not address the discomfort that may be noticeable when working in temperatures lower than 88° F.
Employees, who because of the nature of their job, need to work in environments at temperatures above 88° F will need to have training on Heat Stress. Work practices to reduce heat stress will need to be developed. Contact Neil Carlson from Environmental Health and Safety at 612-626-5714 or firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
- Minnesota Department of Health - Heat Stress http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/emergency/natural/heat/links.html
- MN OSHA heat stress guide http://www.doli.state.mn.us/heatstrs.html
General Environmental Temperature Standard (T° 65 F Min)
Minnesota OSHA requires a minimum temperature of 65 degrees in an office area (MN OSHA regulations 5205.0110. subp. 3.).
The standard is T° 60 in a workroom where individuals are doing manual labor.
A supervisor has the following options according to DEHS interpretation of this standard.
- Move the employee to a warmer area.
- Provide auxillary heat.Electrical space heaters are potential fire hazards - keep objects away from heater and be sure to shut it down at end of day. Do not use unventilated portable gas, propane or kerosene heaters capable of producing carbon monoxide and other products of combustion.
- Allow employees to work from home.
- Dismiss employees. U of MN DEHS is not authorized to state if it is with or without pay. (Other departments have usually done it with pay.)