Our weather office is predicting slightly colder than average temperatures for us this winter. If you have outdoor workers, you’ll need to take care at work this winter.
Winter conditions can lead to many work-related risks. Slips, trips and falls on icy walkways can affect both employees and members of the public. Working at low temperatures can result in many health and safety problems, not just whilst at work, but also getting to and from work can put staff at risk. As with all risks, it is paramount to plan ahead and manage the risks to avoid accidents where possible
When temperatures fall to below freezing this can have a serious impact on someone’s health. Cold conditions can cause the body temperature to drop as can damp wet weather. This can cause illness, permanent damage and in some cases death.
According to the HSE, the following safety issues should be addressed during the winter months:
- Wet and decaying leaves
- Ice, frost and snow
Here are a few tips to help stay safe in winter conditions:
Wear Suitable Clothes and PPE
This is one of the most important precautions to reducing cold stress. It is best to wear three or more layers of clothes and you should also use layering to protect your feet, hands and head. Remember to always make sure your high vis is the outer layer.
Educate your employees on cold-related stress symptoms, for example, severe fatigue, drowsiness, uncomfortable coldness and heavy shivering. They also need to understand cold related illnesses like hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot. Informing your employees of these conditions goes a long way towards the prevention of such illnesses.
Work in pairs, when working in extreme weather conditions, this will allow you to monitor each other and obtain help quickly in the event of an emergency.
Warm-up schedules should be used if required to provide periodic times for warm-up breaks. As the wind velocity increases and/or the temperature drops then additional breaks should be provided.
Always Drink Plenty of Fluid
In a cold environment, thirst is suppressed and dehydration could occur when fluid intake is reduced. Dehydration can weaken our immune systems barriers. Keeping well hydrated during winter ensures that the barriers used to protect your body from colds and flu are fully functional.
Engineering controls can be effective, for example, using heaters in areas where practical, shielding work areas from winds and drafts, and using insulating material on metal handles.
Increase calorie intake when working in cold environments. Workers in cold environments who wear heavy, protective clothing expend more heat and so require 10-15% more calories.
Dark and cloudy winter days with less sunlight than usual means that your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy. This can then cause a lack of concentration and judgement. So be aware that not all health and safety issues can be seen but can still be fatal.
If you need help with any health and safety matters, just call us on 03456 122144 and one of our team will be happy to offer some guidance.