All you need to know about winter risk assessment
Posted on 16th Nov, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham
Summer has now slipped away and there are lots of things to look forward to during autumn and winter. However, when it comes to work, there are a few things about autumn and winter that aren’t so great. The shorter days often mean your staff are arriving and leaving work in the dark; the leaves all fall off the tress and the temperature drops. The risk of slips, trips and falls increase and become the most common cause of winter work accidents – accounting for more than 38% of major injuries at work. With this in mind, maintaining awareness of your work environment and carrying out a proper risk assessment is essential to ensuring winter work safety.
Five hazards to look out for
As an employer it is your duty to assess risks, including slip and trip risks, and where necessary take action to safeguard health and safety:
- Icy conditions
Slips on ice and snow are some of the more obvious risks during the winter months. When working in these conditions, it’s important to de-ice areas prone to be slippery, such as walkways and car parks, and advisable to install large absorbent mats at building entrances to prevent slips upon entering. Proper footwear should also be worn to reduce the risk of slips and falls on the ground, or when working at a height.
- Slippery floors
Rain, frost and snow cause walkways indoors to become wet and slippery. While it’s important to keep on top of maintaining a safe, clean, working environment, it’s not practical to be mopping up after each person enters the building. Use signage to warn employees of areas that become slippery when wet.
- Wet, decaying leaves
Leaves create slip risks in two ways – by being a slip risk on walkways and by hiding hazards that may be on the paths. Sweep up leaves at regular intervals and make sure they don’t lie on your path of work. It’s far too easy to slip on leaves when making your way to and from your van.
- Low temperatures
Exposure to low temperatures for a significant period of time can lead to cold stress, driving down the temperature of the body and leading to serious cold-related illnesses. Risk factors for cold stress include wetness and dampness, dressing improperly, and exhaustion. Those with predisposing health conditions will also be at an increased risk. To prevent problems from occurring, proper, weatherproof clothing should be worn and frequent, short breaks should be taken in warm areas. Work should also be scheduled for the warmest part of the day when possible.
- Adverse driving conditions
Driving in windy, wet or snowy conditions carries risks. Employees should avoid driving in dangerous weather unless it’s absolutely necessary. According to the HSE, up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time.
Take home tips for employees
To make working as safe as possible, here are the most important actions employees can take to ensure winter work safety:
- Wear boots with good grip/ tread
- Wear appropriate winter clothing at all times
- Wear high visibility clothing until the sun is fully up and as soon as the sun goes down
- Take regular breaks to warm up and sip on hot beverages
- Stay home from work when sick to avoid worsening symptoms
- Remain aware of safety protocols and ways of working at all times
- Take time to create a safe, working environment – it will save time in the long run.
For more safety tips and advice, why not view our safety training offerings? You can read about our wide range of courses here.