Welfare at Work

Last reviewed on 18/12/2012 13:06

This page gives advice on welfare at work and the different ways in which it can and should be provided.

You will also find details of legal duties and obligations around welfare at work, and links to further information.

Quick links:

Working Environment:

Welfare Facilities:

Workplace Safety:

What is welfare at work?

Health, safety and welfare are basic requirements at work, and can be divided into four broad categories: the working environment, welfare facilities, workplace safety and housekeeping.

The provision of adequate welfare arrangements is important both in terms of complying with the law, and keeping the workforce happy. People tend to perform better and be happier at their work if they are working in a safe and healthy environment.

 

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Legal duties and obligations around welfare at work

The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 Employers and those in control of workplaces, have a general duty under the Act to ensure so far as is 'reasonably practicable' the health, safety, and welfare of all their employees, and anyone who uses the premises.

→ Read more on The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Duties are more specific under these regulations and apply to most places of work. They define a workplace not only as factories, shops and offices, but also schools, hospitals, hotels and places of entertainment, common parts of shared buildings, private roads and paths on industrial estates and business parks, and temporary worksites.

Exceptions include workplaces in construction, in or on a ship, and mines, as they are covered under more specific legislation.

To view the full text of the above legislation online, please follow the links under Legislation.

 

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Working Environment:

Ventilation

Workplaces need to have an adequate supply of fresh air. In many cases suitable ventilation can be achieved by opening windows and doors, but where necessary, mechanical ventilation systems should be provided and maintained to an appropriate standard.

Temperature – indoors

Indoor temperatures must provide reasonable comfort during working hours.

Where work requires less physical effort, such as in an office, temperatures should be at least 16ºC.

Where work requires more physical effort, the minimum temperatures can be reduced to 13ºC, subject to other conditions such as humidity, ventilation, etc.

 

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Temperature – hot or cold environments

Where temperatures move from what is regarded as comfortable, the risk to the health of those individuals exposed increases.

Heat or Cold Stress may occur depending on the environment; as a result, there is a requirement to assess the risk to health.

Consideration should be given to personal and environmental factors, such as duration of exposure, clothing, body activity, ambient temperatures, radiant heat, humidity and air velocity.

Although the guidance on temperatures doesn’t extend to outdoor work, employers should consider weather conditions.

Where employees work in hot or cold conditions, consider:

  • introducing engineering controls such as, insulation, heaters, solar film, local cooling or blinds as required
  • providing hot or cold drinks
  • restricting exposure – sufficient rest periods, job rotation
  • medical pre-selection to determine employee suitability
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • training and supervision.

Further information on thermal comfort can be obtained form the Health and Safety Executive’s pages on thermal comfort (external site).

 

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Lighting

Lighting should be sufficient to enable people to work and move about safely. Natural light is preferable, although artificial lighting is acceptable and is often used to boost light levels.

Where necessary, local or task lighting should also be used.

Where loss of lighting could pose a risk, independently powered automatic emergency lighting should be provided.

 

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Cleanliness and waste disposal

Cleaning work and disposal of waste should be carried out routinely in order to maintain good standards of cleanliness and hygiene in the workplace.

Room dimensions and space

Workrooms should provide enough free space to allow people to freely access work areas and move within the workplace, free from the risk of tripping or striking objects, etc. Where space is limited, careful planning should be considered.

As a general rule, each person should have a workspace of at least 11 cubic metres. This calculation could include the space taken up by their desk and chair, but should exclude larger fixed items of furniture or equipment, such as a large cupboard or photocopier which is not part of their workspace.

Heights above 3 metres should be excluded from your calculations.

Workrooms, except for those where people only work for a short period, should be of sufficient height. Where height obstructions are present, they should be clearly identified usually by marking tapes or warning signs.

 

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Work stations and seating

Work stations and seating must be suitable for the work and the individuals using them.

Where work can be done seated, suitable seats should be used.

All seating should provide adequate support particularly for the lower back.

Footrests should be provided for individuals that cannot place their feet on the floor to provide support.

Work stations should allow individuals to leave them quickly in an emergency.

 

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Welfare Facilities:

Drinking water

An adequate supply of clean drinking water must be available. This should normally be obtained from a tap directly from a rising main, but drinking water can be provided from a tap supplied by a storage cistern, providing this is cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Where there may be confusion with non-drinking water, the drinking water source should be clearly identified.

Suitable drinking cups should be provided where required.

If it is not possible to provide a piped supply of water, bottled water or water dispensing systems may be provided as an alternative source of drinking water. Containers should be refilled at least daily unless they are chilled water dispensers where containers are returned to suppliers for refilling.

 

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Sanitary facilities

An appropriate number of sanitary conveniences must be provided, and should be adequately ventilated, lit and kept clean.

Separate facilities for male and females must be provided unless the convenience is in a separate room capable of being locked.

Ideally, staff facilities should be separate to those provided for the public. In smaller premises, facilities can be used by both, provided staff are not delayed by this arrangement.

The recommended minimum is:

  • Up to 5 workers: 1 water closet, 1 wash station
  • 6 to 25 workers: 2 water closets, 2 wash stations
  • 26 to 50 workers: 3 water closets, 3 wash stations
  • 51 to 75 workers: 4 water closets, 4 wash stations
  • 76 to 100 workers: 5 water closets, 5 wash stations

After the number of people exceeds 100, an additional wash station is required for every 25 people.

For workplaces with only male workers, the minimum recommendations are:

  • Up to 15 workers: 1 water closet, 1 urinal
  • 16 to 30 workers: 2 water closets, 1 urinal
  • 31 to 45 workers: 2 water closets, 2 urinals
  • 46 to 60 workers: 3 water closets, 2 urinals
  • 61 to 75 workers: 3 water closets, 3 urinals
  • 76 to 90 workers: 4 water closets, 3 urinals
  • 91 to 100 workers: 4 water closets, 4 urinals

 

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Washing facilities

Washing facilities must be readily accessible, adequate in number and must be provided with both hot and cold (or warm) running water, soap and hand-drying facilities.

Where work is particularly strenuous, dirty or could result in contamination of the skin by a harmful offensive material (e.g. body fluids, hazardous chemicals, contaminated soil), showers should be provided.

 

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Rest and eating

Suitable rest facilities should be provided for people to eat meals, etc. particularly where food eaten in the workplace could become contaminated.

Where there is no on-site canteen, or facility close by where hot food can be obtained, the employer should provide facilities for heating food (usually a kettle and microwave would meet these requirements).

Canteens can be used as rest facilities, providing there is no obligation to purchase food.

Where necessary, the rest facilities must also be suitable for pregnant or nursing mothers, close to sanitary facilities and provide a place for a pregnant worker to lie down if required.

In Scotland, it is illegal to smoke in most indoor workplaces. For more information on smoking, visit our Smoking at Work page.

 

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Changing facilities and clothing accommodation

Adequate changing facilities are required in areas where special clothing is required (for example: uniforms, personal protective suits, etc.).

These areas should ensure the privacy of the user, and include facilities for secure storage of personal belongings.

 

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Workplace Safety:

Maintenance

Any part of the workplace or equipment that could pose a risk to the health, safety, or welfare of staff or others, needs to be maintained in a safe condition.

 

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Floors and traffic routes

Floors should be of sound construction and in good condition, free from hazards that could cause slips, trips or falls.

You should also consider the loads they take, and any vehicles using them.

Open-sided staircases should be protected with upper and lower rails, and wider staircases may require to be fitted with a handrail down the middle.

For more information, please see our page on Slips, Trips and Falls.

 

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Vehicle traffic routes

Vehicle traffic routes should be wide enough and high enough to enable vehicles to move about safely.

Some workplaces need to address transport management where there are vehicles such as cars, vans and large goods vehicles operating on site.

Employers may also need to look at forklift, mobile cranes, traffic and pedestrians, etc.

For more information, please see our page on Transport and Vehicles.

 

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Falls and falling objects

Employers need to assess the risks of falling from a height and injuries from falling objects.

Hazardous substances contained in tanks, pits and other structures, should be securely fenced or covered to prevent individuals falling into them.

For more information, please see our page on Heights/Falls From Height.

 

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Transparent and translucent doors, gates, walls and windows

Transparent and translucent doors, gates, walls, windows should be clearly identified or made apparent to avoid accidental contact. In addition, they should be made of safety materials or be protected against breakage.

Windows, doors and gates

Windows should be designed so they can be safely cleaned, preferably from inside the building or, if this is not possible, by a safe method.

Doors and gates should be suitably constructed and fitted with safety devices, such as self-closers, as required.

 

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Your questions on welfare at work

What are the maximum and minimum temperatures for the workplace?

My office will be without water today, should we still be at work?

What health and safety issues should I look out for when renting new premises?

Further information on welfare at work

Free guidance from the Health and Safety Executive
Note – all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to download or order these resources:

Priced guidance from the Health and Safety Executive
Note – all links are to external pages on the HSE website giving options to order these resources:

Legislation

→ View The Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 (external site).

 

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