Got no hot water at work? As an employee, you have legal rights to certain welfare facilities at work. As an employer, if you don't provide it, you could find yourself in a different kind of hot water with the HSE or local authorities.
Hand washing is important for cleanliness, at work and at home. After you have been to the toilet, before eating, and after handling materials and substances, or raw foods. As part of your work, you may come into contact with hazardous substances or dirty materials. Regular handwashing can be an important safety measure to reduce exposure and maintain good hygiene.
While there has been some debate about whether hot or cold water is better for washing your hands, it's still important to have access to warm water for handwashing purposes. In the cold winter months, washing your hands with cold water can be uncomfortable and even painful, especially for people with joint problems or poor circulation.
Washing facilities should have running hot and cold or warm water, soap and clean towels or other means of cleaning or drying.
But what if a boiler breaks, or if you are working in a temporary workplace like a construction site? What does the law say about hot water at work?
Health and safety laws place a range of responsibilities on employers, regarding protecting the health and safety of their workers and others. Part of these requirements is the need to look after the welfare of workers, and this includes providing welfare facilities.
Welfare facilities include things like:
Primarily, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 set out the requirements for these facilities. What should be provided, when and where it should be made available. This set of regulations include the need for hot water within washing facilities.
- Suitable and sufficient washing facilities, including showers if required by the nature of the work or for health reasons, shall be provided at readily accessible places.
- Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), washing facilities shall not be suitable unless—
- they are provided in the immediate vicinity of every sanitary convenience, whether or not provided elsewhere as well;
- they are provided in the vicinity of any changing rooms required by these Regulations, whether or not provided elsewhere as well;
- they include a supply of clean hot and cold, or warm, water (which shall be running water so far as is practicable);
- they include soap or other suitable means of cleaning;
- they include towels or other suitable means of drying;
- the rooms containing them are sufficiently ventilated and lit;
- they and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition;[...]
According to the regulations, washing facilities must be provided at accessible places. They must be available near to the toilets. And, they must include a supply of hot and cold, or warm water.
But what about temporary workplaces, like construction sites. You might only be working for a short time or in a remote location. Do you need to provide hot water?
Construction sites must provide minimum welfare facilities for their workers. And these minimum welfare requirements are detailed in the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (known as CDM). CDM applies to every construction site, no matter how big or small, or the duration of the project.
The CDM regulations say that toilets must be provided, and in some cases, changing rooms. And within the immediate vicinity, washing facilities must be provided.
- Washing facilities must include—
- a supply of clean hot and cold, or warm, water (which must be running water so far as is reasonably practicable);
- soap or other suitable means of cleaning; and
- towels or other suitable means of drying.
Washing facilities need to be provided at readily accessible places for workers. And they need the opportunity to wash after using the toilet, and before eating.
Hot water can often aid the removal of contaminants from your skin. Construction work is dirty work. So it makes sense that the CDM regulations place importance on providing suitable washing facilities.
Washing your hands with warm water can also help to warm them up. Construction workers often need to work outside in cold conditions during the winter months. Keeping your hands warm and circulation flowing is known to reduce the risks from hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). And keeping workers comfortable and allowing them to warm up during breaks will also help keep them productive and happy on site.
For very short term work, or work within occupied premises, existing or shared welfare facilities may be used providing appropriate arrangements have been made. They must still be readily accessible at all times and available at no cost to workers.
Before starting work in a new workplace, make sure there are suitable welfare facilities for the number of users. Hot running water should be provided for washing. In the event of a breakdown or in circumstances where it is not possible to provide hot running water, alternative methods of providing hot water can be used as a short term fix.
Download the free welfare facilities toolbox talk as a reminder of the requirements.