Food businesses need to ensure that the requirements of food hygiene law are achieved while maintaining a ‘reasonable temperature’ in the workroom.
There is not a conflict in law. Generally food hygiene law regulates the temperatures of food while health and safety law regulates the air temperature of the workroom. The few exceptions where hygiene law does specify a maximum air temperature can be accommodated by well-known techniques such as localised refrigerated enclosure.
Health and safety requirements
Health and safety temperature requirements in open workrooms can be met by:
- Maintaining a ‘reasonable’ temperature throughout the workroom of at least 16° (or at least 13° if the work involves serious physical effort). This may mean chilling the food locally or minimising its exposure to ambient temperature or, if this is not practical;
- Providing warm workstations within a workroom where the overall temperature may be lower or, if this is not practical;
- Keeping the individual warm by providing suitable protective clothing, heated rest facilities, task rotation etc.
Working in chill units and freezers
Health and safety temperature requirements in chill units and freezers can be met by:
- Local heating in vehicle cabs where practicable;
- Keeping the individual warm by providing suitable thermal clothing, appropriate breaks to warm up, task rotation etc.
- For work in chillers around 0°C suitable clothing and normal breaks are usually sufficient. For work in blast freezers operating down to -30°C no personal protective equipment (PPE) will be sufficient and breaks at ambient temperature or in warming rooms will be needed.
Guidance can be found in British Standard BS7915:1998 ‘Ergonomics of the thermal environment – Guide to design and evaluation of working practices for cold indoor working environments’. This BS highlights the need for a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to identify the necessary controls such as wearing appropriate PPE, suitable and sufficient breaks in warming rooms with drinks dispensers etc.
Health issues to consider include asthma or other respiratory conditions (freezer air is very dry), cardiovascular and circulatory conditions such as Raynaud’s disease. Additionally some blast freezers can have high noise levels.
Means of escape following entrapment inside walk-in refrigeration units, chill units and freezers should be provided. Doors should be openable from the inside and lighting or otherwise provided to enable the door and opening device to be seen when the door is closed. The risk assessment may show trapped person alarms appropriate.
Industry specific requirements
- Guidance on achieving reasonable working temperatures and conditions during production of chilled foods: Guideline No.26 Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association (now Campden BRI link to external website), Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6L. BS7915:1998 ‘Ergonomics of the thermal environment – Guide to design and evaluation of working practices for cold indoor working environments.
- ISO 15743:2008 Ergonomics of the thermal environment – Cold workplaces – Risk assessment and management
- DIN Standard 33403-5 ‘Climate at workplaces and their environments – Ergonomic design of cold workplaces’ (1997).