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Health and Safety Guide to Working Outside this Winter

December 01, 2019 | By: Victoria Owings

Winter worker
As temperatures drop to minus figures employers have a duty of care to protect their employees against the effects of winter working. 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. If working outdoors during cold weather cannot be avoided, the amount of time spent outside should be reduced and a suitable and sufficient risk assessment carried out.

Get the Right Personal Protective Equipment

To help protect employees from the effects of cold weather when working outside and reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring, employers need to ensure that employees are provided with suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as identified within the risk assessment, including:

  • Gloves, thermals, hats, coats, safety footwear and high visibility vests/ jackets.
  • 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 | Winter Working

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 winter working and 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.

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.

Winter Driving | Work Safe

In winter when temperatures drop and there’s ice or snow on the roads, or if there is reduced visibility because of limited day light, heavy rain or fog, the risk of driving accidents increases.
Through our online portal, Wirehouse clients can access driving risk assessment templates bespoke to many different industries, as well as vehicle inspection checklist templates to help you comply with your health and safety duty of care.
For guidance relating to winter working and safety procedures for employees get in touch with one of our expert Health and Safety Consultants.

About the Author
Victoria Owings
Victoria Owings
Victoria Owings, Author at Wirehouse Employer Services