Health and Safety Guide to Working Outside this Winter
Date: 3rd January 2018 | By: Claire Malley | Categories: Health and Safety
As temperatures drop to minus figures employers have a duty of care to protect their employees against the effects of wintry conditions and provide reasonable comfort to them. As an organisation you may have staff members who are required to work outside as part of their duties, and as their employer it is your responsibility to manage their health and safety in these cold conditions.
Prevent Slips and Trips at Work
In the winter months more accidents are reported to the HSE involving a slip, trip or fall. There are a number of factors that can contribute to these accidents including limited lighting, muddy and icy footpaths.
To protect your employees and others working on or visiting your premises from a slip or a trip ensure that you use an effective grit salt when ice, snow or heavy frost has been forecast. It does not work straight away however so paths and walkways must be gritted either the night before or early in the morning before staff arrive which gives the salt a chance to dissolve the icy patches.
Alternatively, you can eliminate the need for pedestrians to walk over certain areas by cordoning it off with cones or barriers.
Get the Right Personal Protective Equipment
A number of organisations will require employees to work outside. To help protect employees from the effects of cold weather and reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring ensure that they are provided with the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including but not limited to:
- Gloves, thermals, hats, coats, safety footwear and high visibility vests/ jackets.
- If your employees wear hard hats ensure that if they are going to wear anything underneath it that it does not affect the integrity of the hard hat fitting snug to the head. It is worth speaking with your supplier to identify which headgear can be worn under the hard hat so that it can still be adjusted ensuring it will not easily fall off.
- It is not advised that employees wear hoods under their hard hat because this reduces visibility and movement leading to an increased risk of an accident occurring.
The Big Chill | Work Safe
Employees working outside should be provided with facilities to allow them to warm up, this should include the provision of making hot drinks and having somewhere to rest as well as increased rest breaks.
Employees who are exposed to low temperatures can lose more heat than can be generated if they are not moving much, which can cause them to suffer hypothermia and lead to the brain not performing correctly resulting in an increased likelihood of an accident occurring.
Wind chill can have a detrimental effect on employees causing an even greater heat loss. Ensure that employees are wearing the correct clothing to protect against the impact of wind chill and they are made of suitable material to keep them dry. Ideally the workwear supplied should be made up of different thermal and lining layers that can be easily removed and added when the weather and temperature changes.
Take Time to Assess the Health and Safety Risks
As an organisation, it is important to assess your employee’s duties and determine the most appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, but remember, PPE is one of the last measures on the Hierarchy of Controls:
- 1. Elimination
- 2. Substitution
- 3. Engineering Controls
- 4. Administrative Controls
- 5. Personal Protective Equipment
It is most important to work through each hierarchy, and determine whether you can eliminate the need to have employees working outside, if the answer is no then you have to take reasonable steps to ensure that they are suitably protected. It is good practice to issue staff members with medical questionnaires as this helps to identify if any further control measures are required to protect the individual.
By Angela Laycock – Wirehouse Health and Safety Advisor