Working Conditions–Ambient Air Temperature
What constitutes an acceptable ambient air temperature?
According to the National Joint Council (NJC) Occupational Health and Safety Directive, temperatures in your workplace should be maintained between 20℃ and 26℃, “to the extent practicable.”
2.2 Environmental Conditions
2.2.2 In office accommodation, air (dry bulb) temperatures during working hours should be maintained within the 20℃ to 26℃ range, which is the ideal temperature operating range. Temperatures between 17℃ and 20℃ and above 26℃ can be uncomfortable, and occupancy should not exceed three hours daily, or 60 hours annually, in each of these extremes. Temperatures above 26℃ are deemed to be uncomfortable when the humidex reading (Appendix A) at a given temperature equals 40℃ or less; more than 40℃ being considered dangerous.
What should I do if the ambient air temperature in my workplace is outside the acceptable range?
You must first notify your manager so that he or she can take appropriate corrective action if necessary. You should also notify your local health and safety committee because, if temperatures reach the above-mentioned uncomfortable levels, the employer will have to notify the committee of the corrective measures being taken. In addition, if the employer fails to correct the problem satisfactorily, you can ask for an emergency meeting of the health and safety committee to be held.
How are temperatures measured?
The directive specifies that “temperatures shall be measured at desk-top level in those spaces within work stations that would be occupied by employees while they are carrying out the major part of their normal duties.” Temperatures are to be measured by an employer representative or a representative of the health and safety committee.
If the ambient air temperature in my workplace is outside the acceptable temperature range, can I go home?
Unless a situation is so particularly hazardous to your health or the health of others that it allows you to exercise your right of refusal to work, it would be inappropriate for you to leave your workstation without your employer’s permission.
Only under the specific circumstances described in the NJC Directive (ambient air temperatures of less than 17℃ or more than 40℃) is the employer obliged to stop operations and allow you to leave the workplace if you cannot be relocated elsewhere. Between these temperature extremes, the directive calls for the employer to apply corrective measures, such as increasing the frequency of rest periods and temporarily relocating employees to workstations outside the affected area.
Who is responsible for demonstrating the existence of inadequate working conditions?
In any situation where the ambient air temperature in the workplace is outside the acceptable range, the burden of proof rests with the employee. It is therefore important to preserve all written documentation and make note of all verbal interactions on the subject (date, times, location, with whom, witness(es), what was said, etc.). Make sure to notify the health and safety committee; the committee could also help you monitor conditions in your working environment.
What formal redress is available?
In addition to notifying your health and safety committee, you can file a grievance against your employer if the situation is not resolved to your satisfaction, since the Occupational Health and Safety Directive is considered to be part and parcel of the collective agreements between the parties represented on the National Joint Council.
New Occupational Health and Safety Directive – January 1, 2011:
Section 15 of the NJC By-Laws provides a detailed explanation of the process for presenting grievances. Grievances must be filed within 25 days.
Should you wish to file a grievance, a labour relations officer will guide you through the process and can analyse the file with you.
Disclaimer: Material contained on this page is intended for general information purposes only. It is not intended as professional
counsel or legal opinion. Any analysis or interpretation contained herein should not be considered to be CAPE’s final analysis or
interpretation and is subject to change. It is not binding on CAPE. Every case is highly fact-specific and, as a result, the outcome of
any particular case will vary depending on the unique facts and legal issues involved.