How to prepare for winter working and staying safe

How to prepare for winter working and staying safe safety Forward

Our latest article explores how to prepare for winter working including risk assessments to keep everyone safe, and your business running efficiently.

Spring, summer, autumn, winter, regardless of the season, you will find each brings various challenges to your business, adapting your outlook on health and safety requirements heading into the winter months is crucial.

As an employer you have a legal duty, as far as is reasonably practicable to ensure your employees are kept safe at work. This is the time where you will have to consider how the change in weather is going to impact your business, employees, self-employed, contractors, members of the public and visitors carrying out their duties either on behalf of your business or within your premises. The risk of slips, trips and falls will increase and those driving for work purposes will be potentially faced with conditions out of your control, planning is key for any business.

How are you going to access the impact on your business?

Firstly, a risk assessment of the activities should be undertaken where your employees are visiting various locations, together with a site based risk assessment, of your own premises. You may already have risk assessments in place but winter working brings new hazards and additional control measures may be required. Your risk assessment will need to be reviewed and re-issued to your employees to ensure they understand any changes you make. You are required by law to document your risk assessments if you employ over 5 people in your business.

Health and safety considerations in your business may change from season to season. While your business should be aware of hazards all year round, there can be more during winter. Under the Health & Safety at Work Etc Act 1974, an employer has a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees. You also have an equivalent duty to anyone else who may be affected by the work being carried out – including self-employed workers, contractors, visitors, or members of the public.

Carry out a risk assessment

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a risk assessment is a legal requirement that involves identifying sensible measures to control hazards if you’re an employer, your work activity is mentioned in the regulations, or your work poses a risk to others. You should have already conducted a risk assessment to check the safety of the areas around your company building, but it’s wise to conduct an additional one during the winter. This involves:

  • Spotting the potential hazards
  • Assessing the risk of them causing an accident
  • Taking action to prevent them

If you employ five or more staff, you must record your findings in writing.

Training

Workers and supervisors should be trained to recognise the symptoms of cold exposure such as hypothermia and having a trained first aid person is highly recommended. All employees should be informed about PPE, safe work practices, and emergency procedures in case of injury and whilst working in the cold, a buddy system should be used to look out for one another. Outdoor workers should be encouraged to take additional breaks to enable them to warm up.

PPE

Keeping warm is essential when workers have to work in the cold weather. The key is finding a balance of wearing enough layers to stay warm while still being able to maintain a good range of mobility so workers can perform their work. Your standard hi-vis vest may now be replaced with a hi-vis coat. To help protect workers from the effects of cold weather when working outside and reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring, employers need to ensure that workers are provided with suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as identified within the risk assessment, including:

  • Hardhats
  • Gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Thermals
  • Safety Boots
  • Hi visibility clothing

Driving for work

It should be ensured drivers are allowed extra time to complete journeys, particularly with dark mornings and evenings and factor in alternative routes, and that they are not pressurised to complete any journeys made dangerously difficult by the weather. Company vehicles should be provided with suitable equipment for the conditions eg, winter tyres. Ensure your company fleet of vehicles are equipped with winter weather emergency kits in the event of a breakdown or long periods of stationary traffic and also encourage your workers to create emergency kits for their personal vehicles.

Communication

A reliable communication system is also crucial; it’s no good relying on a mobile phone if there is a poor, or absent signal in the area being visited. Some form of lone/remote-worker system is advisable, via which employees can report their expected movements and times so that an employer can keep track of them and be alerted if a time check has been missed. A workable/ proven emergency plan must also be in place and communicated to all relevant staff.

Preparation

As with all aspects of health and safety, preparation is key. According to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), slips and trips are the most common cause of workplace injury; in fact, they account for over a third of major accidents that occur. This is a risk that is only amplified in winter due to increased rainfall, and the higher risk of there being a build-up of ice and snow outside your building. To reduce the risk of slips, trips, and falls in winter, make sure your external paths are regularly cleared of ice and snow, and that these are gritted if needed. Check your external lighting is working sufficiently. You should also have suitable entrance mats and matting in place to remove debris from shoes, and reduce slip risk.

For further information and advice on how to prepare for winter working including risk assessments, please contact us here.