In the UK winter months, temperatures can drop to below freezing. Is your workplace ready for potential snow?
When snowfall hits the UK, many services are severely disrupted. Transport is often the first casualty of the icy weather. Road traffic can be at a stand still for hours and train operations usually cease altogether. In more severe cases, airports are closed as runways and taxiways can’t be cleared. Snow and ice can also affect people’s ability to commute and can make the workplace a hazard if it is not properly looked after.
The HSE reports that slips, trips and falls equated to 31% of all non-fatal injuries at work in the last year. This is likely to increase in the winter months with the build up of ice and snow on the ground. Employers have a Duty of Care to ensure the health and well-being of their workers. It is therefore vital that measures are put in place to reduce workplace accidents in the winter months.
Here’s some tips to make sure that your workplace is ready for snow and can avoid unnecessary injury:
- Clear leaves away from entrances. When these become wet, they can become very slippery and pose a risk to workers.
- Grit paths and areas around entrances. This will prevent the build up of ice and snow. However, gritting needs to be done in advance and to be monitored as rain will wash it away.
- Put mats in work to soak up excess water. Snow can be bought indoors on footwear, when this melts it can cause puddles which can cause a slip hazard. Having adequate mats around entrances can aid in soaking up water which can help to keep floors clear.
- Make sure you use wet floor signs. It is important to make workers aware that there could be water on the floor which can pose as a slip hazard. Using wet floor signs will let workers know to tread carefully just in case.
- Make sure that the workplace temperature is reasonable. There is no law to say what the maximum and minimum working temperatures should be. Just that the temperature should be reasonable. A recommendation is that minimum temperatures should be 16 degrees or 13 degrees for physical work. So, ensure that the working temperature is comfortable for maximum productivity.
If your employees are working outdoors, you can help them to stay safe by doing the following:
- Provide workers with appropriate PPE for the conditions. Provide workers with equipment to keep them warm but make sure it doesn’t hinder their ability to carry out their work.
- Workers are provided with facilities for warming up and having a hot drink. It’s vitally important that workers are given the opportunity to warm up. Being exposed to the cold for too long can be damaging to their health.
- Make sure workers frequent rest breaks. Cold temperatures can affect energy levels. Frequent rest breaks are key to regaining energy and therefore, helping to prevent making mistakes due to tiredness.
- Educate workers in recognising the early symptoms of cold stress. When the body is unable to keep itself warm, that’s when a person can develop serious cold-related illnesses. Spotting early signs of cold-related illnesses such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia can save a life.
- Consider delaying work if it can be undertaken at a warmer time of year. If completing the work in colder temperatures may pose a risk to workers health, then the work should be rescheduled for when the weather is warmer. Employers have a Duty of Care to workers, and so should not put them at unnecessary risk.
- Provide staff with a personal safety alarm. Give your employees piece of mind that if an accident were to happen whilst they were working alone outdoors, then they would be able to call for assistance at the push of a button.