The issue of temperature in classrooms comes up twice a year: in the spring when we are all dying of heat and in the winter when we are all freezing in our classrooms. Please read below the WCB regulation on indoor air. The problem is the wiggle room language “as far as practicable”. Of course this language never stops us from exercising our rights to ask the employer to do something about a problem. The best advice we can give is that the site-based committee should make a recommendation to the administrator who then has 21 days in which to act. The problem with process is that in 21 days, the temperature may have dropped. However, by following the process, you will be prepared for the next heat/cold wave. If after 21 days the problem is still not addressed, then the site-based committee can report to the regional WorksafeBC office and file a complaint.

A worksafe officer (WSO) is obligated to come out to do an investigation and then will write a report with recommendations. I would suggest that whomever reports to the WSO, makes sure that the officer interviews the staff as well because sometimes they only interview the employer. We are never guaranteed that a WSO will rule in our favour so there is sometimes a risk in calling them. Document the temperature in the classrooms throughout the day so that when the  WSO comes out, you will have a paper trail and not just anecdotal reports. Document also the effects of the heat on the staff and students (keep in mind the WSO won’t be able to act to protect the students because they are not workers). You can also ask for an indoor air quality test to find out how effective the ventilation is. The other card that you can play if you believe that the temperature is harmful to you and/or your students is to refuse unsafe work and take your kids somewhere cooler.

Using the Refusal of Unsafe Work process is very powerful. You can suffer no retribution for exercising it and it speeds up the process to have the supervisor investigate and do something about a problem. See the attached file for information on the process. OH&SR 4.80 requires that the employer ensure that temperature and humidity levels within the indoor work environment are maintained within acceptable comfort ranges, as far as is practicable.

The WorkSafeBC web site attaches the following note to OH&SR 4.80: “Refer to the ASHRAE publication Handbook of  Fundamentals or to the WorkSafeBC publication Indoor Air Quality for information on acceptable temperature and humidity levels.”

The table below is an excerpt from the WorkSafeBC publication

Indoor Air Quality

5 Acceptable ranges of temperature and relative humidity for comfort (adapted from ASHRAE Standard 55-1992)

Season Relative Humidity Temperature
Summer 30% 23° to 27° C
50% 23° to 26° C
60% 23° to 26° C
Winter 30% 20° to 24° C
50% 20° to 24° C
60% 20° to 23° C

However, the ASHRAE Handbook of Fundamentals recommends that the temperature be maintained between 19°C and 27°C and that relative humidity be maintained between 20% and 60%.