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Winter precautions

It is often the case that Accidents/Near Misses increase during the Autumn and Winter season due to a number of reasons including: there being less daylight, leaves falling onto paths causing them to become wet and slippery and cold weather spells causing ice and snow to build up on paths and walkways.

As a result of the added risk Winter factors will pose to many organisations, Employers will need to ensure that their risk assessments are conducted/updated for activities and work areas affected by the winter season. They will need to ensure that the weather conditions have been considered, appropriate controls have been included and that these have been communicated effectively to all employees.

There are some factors which pose more of a risk than others which we look at in further detail below and ways to reduce the likelihood of an accident.

Winter driving conditions are often not so bad as to prevent travel entirely, however there are various aspects of journey planning that should be carried out to ensure that travel during winter conditions is as safe as it can be. Every journey should be managed and those responsible for journey planning should take into account: road type (for example, can rural roads be avoided?); hazards (such as accident “black spots”, unsalted/ungritted roads or stretches of road that might be unsuitable for high-sided vehicles in high winds); traffic densities (timing journeys to avoid peak traffic hours); and, high-risk features (for example, steep hills in the winter).

Suitable workplace temperature
The Approved Code of Practice suggests the minimum temperature in a workplace should normally be at least 16 degrees Celsius. If the work involves rigorous physical effort, the temperature should be at least 13 degrees Celsius. When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, effects can include dehydration, numbness, shivering, frostbite, immersion foot and hypothermia. In very cold weather, workers can face two major health problems: hypothermia and frostbite. As with other health and safety problems, the best method of dealing with the hazards related to cold-weather working is to eliminate the risk. However, this is not always practical when working outside and so measures are required to reduce exposure. These will include the provision and wearing of appropriate clothing and the best advice suggests that layering clothes is most effective, as these layers can be added to or removed depending on each individual’s metabolism. Business’s shall ensure that their heating systems are in a working order and maintained on a regular basis.

Personal Protective Equipment
This is one of the most important precautions to reduce cold stress. It is best to wear three or more layers of clothes and employees should be encouraged to use layering to protect their feet, hands and head. As the wind velocity increases and/or the temperature drops, employers should provide additional breaks to employees away from the elements to warm themselves.. Lone workers should be particularly protected in cold weather especially if they are required to work in remote locations. Robust procedures are imperative, with provisions made for communication, the ability to summon help and be easily located in case of an accident.

Employers must ensure that there is enough lighting around the workplace for employees to be able to see and avoid hazards that might be on the ground. The easiest way to find out is to ask employees. Another way is to shadow employees for a couple of days, walk the main internal and external routes that employees use throughout their working day. It is important to do this both inside and outside of the workplace and at different times of the day. This is because. If hazards on the ground are not easily identified and avoided, the lighting must be improved to ensure the health and safety of employees. Improvements may include fitting additional lighting fixtures or changing the type of bulb used.

Slips, Trips and Falls
To reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls for employees in winter, employers must make sure that any external paths are regularly cleared of ice and snow, and that these are gritted if needed. Employers should also have suitable entrance mats and matting in place to remove debris from shoes, and reduce slip risks developing inside the workplace. Leaves can also create slip risks in two ways – by being a slip risk on walkways and also by hiding hazards that may be on the paths. Sweep up leaves at regular intervals and make sure they don’t lie on your path of work. It’s far too easy to slip on leaves when making your way to and from your van.

If you need support with preparing your business for winter, contact Napthens Health and Safety.

car on a snowy road