Keeping your cool at work

Posted by sll33 at May 29, 2013 12:05 PM |
Electric heaters may seem like the ideal solution to a cold office, but our findings show that they can cause you health problems, damage the building and even make you feel colder.
Keeping your cool at work

Save your health and the Uni money by giving up your heater

  • Are you suffering from dry or irritated skin, asthma or similar, dehydration or itchy eyes?
  • Are you cold?
  • Do you or an office mate have an electric heater?

Electric heater– Then that could be the root of your problems.

As the University’s old buildings have struggled to cope with the long, cold winter, a few staff members have utilised electric heaters to keep themselves warm. Whilst this is understandable, there are considerable health and financial implications of this and, although we want you to be comfortable, we ask that you reconsider the use of such devices.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, the temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16oC unless much of the work involves severe physical effort in which case the temperature should be at least 13oC. The law does not state a minimum temperature.
Whilst Estates does everything it can to maintain non-residential space at a comfortable temperature which is defined as between 16 and 21oC (or 20 - 22oC in a residential space) in the University Space, Heating and Cooling Policy, January 2016, some people feel the cold more than others based on their weight, age, fitness, health, diet and stress levels. 
Electric heaters may appear to be an obvious solution if you are cold but they also dry the air out, which has the following side effects on the human body:

  1. Respiratory ailments - breathing dry air is a potential health hazard that can cause asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and nosebleeds, or general dehydration since body fluids are depleted during respiration.Sneeze
  2. Increased risk of illness - as your nose needs mucus to trap viruses and other invaders before they can get you sick, dry nostrils can also make you more vulnerable to colds, sinus infections and the flu. That's especially a problem in winter, when bacteria and viruses can tend to linger longer in the dry air after someone coughs or sneezes.
  3. Skin irritations and eye itching due to skin moisture evaporation.
  4. Irritative effects such as static electricity which causes mild shocks when metal is touched, are common when the air moisture is low.
  5. You will feel colder - while the indoor temperature as read from a thermometer may be 20° C, it may feel warmer or colder depending on the moisture content of the air. Because of evaporation the human body cools when exposed to dry air and the sense of coldness increases as humidity decreases.
  6. Damage to buildings - dry air can cause splits and cracks in wood, trim and moulding
  7. Insurance/health and safety risks – they are potentially unsafe, both as a fire hazard and in terms of overloading electrical circuits.
  8. Higher energy bills – a standard electric heater costs approximately £1.50 a day to run. As roughly 20% of staff are likely to feel cold enough to use a heater, this equates to our electricity bills being almost £100K a year more expensive.
  9. High carbon emissions – as electric heaters are energy guzzlers, just 20% of staff using a heater for five months a year will emit an additional 10.5 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. That is the equivalent of the electricity used by 27 average three bedroom houses in a year!

The University will be running an ‘electric heater amnesty’ this summer so if you have a heater in your office that is making you ill and feel even colder – now’s the time to get rid of it and invest in another jumper instead. Details to follow …

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